Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Confused homosexualities? Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe and the UK

(c) Nick Clegg
Republished in full from The Pryer.

In Africa, homosexuality is often talked about, and identified, as being un-African. The other day, Morgan Tsvangirai claimed that he would support the inclusion of gay rights in the new Zimbabwean constitution. The Herald quotes Tsvangirai thus:
 “It’s a very controversial subject in my part of the world. “My attitude is that I hope the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody,” he told the BBC. “To me, it’s a human right,” he added.
Yet this alleged support for gay rights appears contrived. First off, this represents a u-turn for Tsvangirai who has previously supported Mugabe’s staunchly hostile stance on homosexuality. Tsvangirai has a history of changes of heart, including on recent policy proposals for indigenisation and a negotiated constitution.

More telling is a press conference held just two days later. When questioned on his defence of gay rights, Radio Vop Zimbabwe reports:
Tsvangirai drew wild laughter from the house when he suggested, “perhaps I am speaking here kuda mumwe musi mungangodai muringochani panapa (we may be talking while some of you may be gays here). What you do in your private sphere is your private problem.”
By mocking “gays” and their “problems”, he seems to be drawing on cultural 'attitudinal' norms to re-establish his credibility through the national media. These are not the words of someone overtly in support of gay rights. Interestingly, his website contains no news on his recent pronouncements. Given his propensity to about face, I doubt that this will be Tsvangirai’s final opinion on gay rights.

Lest I castigate Tsvangirai too harshly, let us look at the UK’s role in current homosexual discourse in Zimbabwe. In his piece in New Zimbabwe, Dr. Munya Munochiveyi traces the history of homosexuality from the practices of ancient tribes of Africa, through to the rituals of warrior societies of Zimbabwe, to the colonialism of the Victorians and Rhodesia. He posits that homosexuality is not un-African, and that it only became a cultural taboo, and norm, as a result of British colonial rule. Of course, the paradox of this is that the anti-colonial, anti-British Robert Mugabe espouses the same homophobic attitude as the colonials he despised.

(c) theodoranian
Coincidentally, The Independent claims that Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has instructed its Ambassadors not to fly the ‘gay flag’ as “it opens up too many potentially difficult and divisive questions”. This follows praise that three British Ambassadors had received from local gay communities for doing just that in support of local gay pride marches. 

One of the FCO’s stated priorities is to:
Strengthen the Commonwealth as a focus for promoting democratic values, human rights, climate resilient development, conflict prevention and trade
On a week when Stuart Walker was allegedly killed for being gay, and when it was reported that there has been an increase in homophobic hate crimes in the UK, the above does not strengthen the UK's human rights position.

Returning to Munochiveyi’s article in New Zimbabwe, it is noteworthy that the accompanying photograph features two white women; the press still seem uncomfortable with ideas of being African and homosexuality. Looking through the comments following the article, it appears that Zimbabwe has some way to go before it will accept homosexuality as being normal. 

The evangelical posturing of our colonial ancestors has left human rights scars all over Africa, and this is a further example of it. As much as we would like to see a change in African attitudes, they would like to see a change in ours.  

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