U.S. State Department Condemns Police Raids, Assaults on LGBT Community in Zimbabwe

The U.S. Department of State joins Amnesty International and LGBT activist groups in condemning police violence and harassment against LGBT Zimbabweans.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

August 24 2012 2:30 PM ET

The U.S. Department of State Thursday condemned police intimidation and harassment against LGBT people in Zimbabwe. On August 11, police raided the headquarters of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, assaulting members with batons and fists, and arresting 44 members. The 31 men and 13 women were imprisoned overnight, then released without being charged. Police again raided the GALZ office Monday and have continued to harass GALZ members at their homes.

"The United States condemns the Government of Zimbabwe's violent arrest and detention of 44 members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe on August 11 and a second raid by police on August 20," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in a press release. "The United States stands in solidarity with Zimbabwe's civil society, including LGBT activists. We are deeply concerned when security forces become an instrument of political violence used against citizens exercising their democratic rights. We call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to end this pattern of abuse and to eradicate the culture of impunity that allows members of the security sector to continue to violate the rights of the Zimbabwean people."

When riot police, some "visibly drunk," raided the GALZ offices earlier this month, members were gathered to launch their Violations Report, detailing abuses against LGBT Zimbabweans. Members were ordered to give their names, addresses and personal information, and several have reported police harassment of their family members at their homes.

On Thursday the Zimbabwe Republic Police charged GALZ cochairperson Martha Tholanah with running an "unregistered" organization.

Male homosexuality is illegal in the South African nation, a criminalization that was amended in 2006 to include any "act involving contact between two males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act," including kissing, holding hands, or hugging.

Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has said that LGBT people are "worse than dogs and pigs," that homosexuality "degrades human dignity," and that he finds it "extremely outrageous and repugnant to my human conscience that such immoral and repulsive organizations, like those of homosexuals, who offend both the law of nature and the morals of religious beliefs espoused by our society, should have any advocates in our midst and elsewhere in the world." 

Mugabe has also advocated for the imprisonment of LGBT Zimbabweans, saying, "If you see people parading themselves as lesbians and gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police!"

Amnesty International also condemned the violence, saying, "The police action is a blatant violation of the basic human rights of these individuals. They have not committed any crime under Zimbabwean law."

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