THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) says it is time citizens become aware of and begin to respect gays and lesbians as directed by the country’s constitution.
Speaking at the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GAZL) sensitisation workshop held in the Midlands province recently, ZHRC chairperson, Elasto Mugwadi said everyone deserves equal treatment in society.
“Every Zimbabwean citizen is equal before the law in terms of Section 56 of the Constitution which provides for equality and non – discrimination. Zimbabwe is a diverse and multi-ethnical nation with various minority groups whose Constitutional rights have to be respected and protected,” he said.
The human rights boss said the Constitution of Zimbabwe also states at Section 51 that every person has the right to human dignity.
“So the Right to dignity entails that a person must be valued and respected for being what they are and who they are. It is my hope that the ZHRC’s staff and Commissioners will be capacitated to better appreciate LGBTI rights,” Mugwadi said.
Zimbabwe’s cultural systems do not generally accept the practices of homosexuality which are often linked to cultism and the dark world.
Such beliefs were further reinforced by the former late president Robert Mugabe who criticized the practice during his almost four decades rule and as a result most public policy issues have turned a blind eye on the LGBTI community.
Admitted Mugwadi,” It is unfortunate that as a Commission, we have not had much interaction with the LGBTI community in Zimbabwe since our operationalisation in 2014 and therefore cannot pretend to understand their underlying challenges. We have however, had some information exchanges with other human rights stakeholders especially at regional level.”
The human rights boss challenged ZHRC staff to get a better understanding of this category of rights, what they entail, the experiences of citizens concerned, challenges experienced –if any, and also the recommendations on how the Commission could fully implement its mandate, taking cognisance of the LGBTI community’s unique needs.