UN high commissioner tells Zimbabwe it needs to change

High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navane...

Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Zimbabwe came in for harsh criticism from the UN high commissioner for human rights at the end of her recent inspection trip there.

High Commissioner Navi Pillay said in a statement that the country has made progress on human rights, especially women’s involvement in government.

But Zimbabwe needs to behave better toward LGBT people, Pillay said. She stated:

I have … been disturbed by the country’s legislation on the subject of LGBT (sexual orientation).

The all-important international principle of non-discrimination is included in the current Constitution, as well as in international treaties to which Zimbabwe is a party. There can be no justification for violence, harassment or stigmatisation.

And criminalisation of any group because of their sexual orientation can lead to impediments to their accessing basic services – in other words result in clear-cut discrimination – including treatment for HIV. Sexual relations between consenting adults is not a matter for the courts.

The south African legal and human-rights blog Salc Bloggers endorsed her position, stating:

Ms Pillay’s comments on women’s rights, and the rights of LGBT persons are pertinent. A day earlier, President Mugabe gave a speech at a gender rights conference in Harare in which he uttered a muddled point of view on these matters. In his speech, President Mugabe reportedly expressed doubt as to the extent to which women will ever be equally represented in decision-making structures in Zimbabwe – “Our customs look down on women as inferior. Men pay cattle and money to get a wife and expect women to obey them. Women will surely lose. Men say that women are not as knowledgeable as us. The attitude of men still despises women,” Mugabe reportedly said.

Yet, President Mugabe was quick to promote women’s rights as an argument for continued discrimination against LGBT persons, reportedly stating that same-sex marriages interferes with women’s rights since it somehow deprives them of their sole right to bear children and will lead to “extinction”.

Patrick Chinamasa, justice minister of Zimbabwe

Patrick Chinamasa, justice minister of Zimbabwe

The rights of LGBT persons are highly politicised in the run-up to the elections in Zimbabwe. During the High Commissioner’s visit, both President Mugabe and the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Patrick Chinamasa, strongly emphasised that Zimbabwe will continue to criminalise same-sex sexual conduct.

It is therefore important that a high ranking official such as Ms Pillay was willing to stick to her resolve to promote the rights of all people, including LGBT persons. In her lecture at the University of Zimbabwe on the 24th of May, she emphasised that UN Member States, including Zimbabwe, agreed at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 that “all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.”

The recent U.S. Department of State report on human rights also criticized Zimbabwe. It said, in part:

Members of the LGBT community reported widespread societal discrimination based on sexual orientation. In response to social pressure, some families reportedly subjected their LGBT members to “corrective” rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct. Such crimes were rarely reported to police.

Women, in particular, were subjected to rape by male members of their own families. LGBT members often left school at an early age due to discrimination and had higher rates of unemployment and homelessness.

Many persons who identified with the LGBT community did not seek medical care for sexually transmitted diseases or other health issues due to fear that health providers would shun them.

2 thoughts on “UN high commissioner tells Zimbabwe it needs to change

  1. Pingback: Zimbabwe police raid office, arrest 44 gay activists | 76 CRIMES

  2. Pingback: Damning LGBT report on Zimbabwe, plus a call for change | 76 CRIMES

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