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Zimbabwe’s gay community wins a landmark court victory

Friday, February 28, 2014
GALZMartha Tholanah and members of GALZ legal team leaving the court on Wednesday after their victory.

GALZ
Martha Tholanah and members of GALZ legal team leaving the court on Wednesday after their victory.

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s LGBT community is celebrating a court victory in which authorities sought to shut down the country’s main LGBT rights advocacy group.

Harare Magistrate Donald Ndirowei on Wednesday dismissed a judicial complaint against the group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) that accused it of running an “unregistered” organization.

Prosecutors pursued the charges against GALZ chair, Martha Tholanah, following an August 2012 incident in which police raided, harassing members of the group, and seized equipment and material at the organization’s Harare office.

They claimed that Tholanah unlawfully took part in the management of GALZ by and “engaging in gays and lesbians activities” in violation of the Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) Act.

Magistrate Ndirowei ruled that GALZ was not obliged to register under the PVO Act and that the State could not prosecute the organization; a High Court order issued last month exempting GALZ from registering is still binding.

The High Court Judge Justice Chigumba said the seizure was unlawful and contravened the rights of GALZ further stating that it is not obliged to register in terms of the Private Voluntary Organizations Act.

The Magistrate said he could not be seen interfering with a ruling of a superior court.

On Jan. 14, 2014, the High Court ordered the State to return the GALZ property seized in 2012, but authorities have still refused to do so.

“I am just happy that this is over. There is hope in the justice system, and I hope this prevails,” Tholanah told LGBTQ Nation. “Special salute to members of GALZ who have continuously suffered a lot of harassment, but have remained steadfast in claiming their birthright as citizens of Zimbabwe.”

Last weekend, during his 90th birthday party, Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe ranted against LGBT people: “We don’t accept homosexuality here. God made men and women so they can bear children.”

Mugabe has continually attacked LGBT people since 1995, saying they are “worse than dogs and pigs” “unnatural” and “degrading human dignity.”

Male homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, and in 2006 the country’s government amended the law which now states that sodomy is any “act involving contact between two males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act,” thereby criminalizing holding hands, hugging, or kissing, punishments range up to 10 year imprisonment.

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17 more reader comments:

  1. Garrett Piersa

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:18pm
  2. thanks!!!

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:21pm
  3. great… way to go….

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:31pm
  4. Mugabe is obstructing their rights

    Replied on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:36pm
  5. Nice to finally see some good news coming out of Africa!

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:36pm
  6. great… way to go….

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:38pm
  7. A long way to go still, but it’s a start!

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:40pm
  8. The human rights,or lack thereof, in many countries is disappointing. We’ve come far as human beings but we still have a long way to go.

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:47pm
  9. Congrats. Keep up the good fight

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 6:59pm
  10. YEAH!! Good news.

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7:02pm
  11. I hope Zimbabwe comes to its senses… It is a wonderful country together with Mauritius and Rwanda… and Rwanda is surprisingly less anti-gay…

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7:16pm
  12. How is this a victory? There are still anti lgbt laws ON THE BOOKS and in the hole where there should be a heart of their countrymen

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7:25pm
  13. Niko slowly but surely someday we will get some where,its all unfair but we will get there

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7:31pm
  14. Thats good

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7:54pm
  15. As a South African (Azanian) I take particular interest in countries like our neighbor Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe as a dictator has not done well for the country.

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 8:41pm
  16. Congrats…….good news

    Posted on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 9:13pm