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Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe at the World Social Forum
Taurai Maduna,
February 12, 2007

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Fadzai Muparutsa, Programme Manager for Gender, Gays and Lesbians Asscociation of Zimbabwe (GALZ)
Fadzai Muparutsa, Programme Manager for Gender Gays and Lesbians Asscociation of Zimbabwe (GALZ)

In February 2006, 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana from Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa was brutally murdered. The Mail & Guardian in South Africa reported that Zoliswa and a friend were taunted for being lesbians by a group of heterosexual girls. The paper went on to say that Zoliswa was "clubbed, kicked and beaten to death by a mob of about 20 young men on February 4".

Towards the end of 2006 four men who live in their neighbourhood savagely attacked seven Harare women who are members of the Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ). One of the women had a knife pushed into her vagina.

Such brutal attacks on Gays and Lesbians in Africa were some of the issues discussed at the World Social Forum (WSF), which was held in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2007.

Fadzai Muparutsa, Programme Manager for Gender with GALZ represented her organisation at the WSF. She told that she had gone to give support to the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), which was established in 2006. listen to audio file

Pauline Kimani of GALCK told Inter Press Service that they hoped that the WSF would transform Kenyan and Africa's views on homosexuals. "We are saying we exist and that we are part of society. We want to be treated as people because we are people, we are human beings living in the same world," she added.

Events on homosexuality were mostly held at a venue set up by GALCK called the Q-Spot. It is reported to have been one of the most popular venues at the WSF.

According to Fadzai a lot of capacity building took place at the Q-Spot. She said one of the biggest challenges at the Q-Spot was trying to explain to people that homosexuality is not an imported colonial construct. "A lot of people think itís very unAfrican to be homosexual and think it is a colonisation thing," she said. listen to audio file

But Fadzai isnít one to be fazed and she said she welcomed the challenge to change peopleís mindset especially faced with a government that is not receptive to gay and lesbian issues. "Itís hard for someone to unlearn what he or she has learnt," she said.
listen to audio file

While the Gay and Lesbian community advocated for their rights, Firoze Manji, editor for Pambazuka News wrote that not everybody was equally represented. "This event had all the features of a trade fair Ė those with greater wealth had more events in the calendar, larger (and more comfortable) spaces, more propaganda Ė and therefore a larger voice," he said.

Fadzai concurred with Manjiís comments. She went on to say that while some minority groups were present their events were given very little publicity. According to Fadzai one of the setbacks of the WSF in Nairobi was that it was poorly organised. Basic things like getting a programme of events, and events changing all the time dogged the smooth running of the WSF. listen to audio file

She added that for the WSF to be more effective there was a need for various interest groups to be given a more prominent platform so that their voices were heard. She said issues such as poverty; health, HIV/AIDS, governance issues and discrimination of minority groups must be given more prominence in future.

Notwithstanding these criticisms Fadzai said she enjoyed participating and described her visit to Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, as an "eye-opener". She said she had not seen anything like that in Zimbabwe.

Back home, Fadzai said she would be sharing and implementing what she learnt in Nairobi at GALZ. One of the major areas that need to be addressed is to increase the dissemination of information on gay and lesbian issues. "The most critical area is schools where gays and lesbians are often stigmatised because of their sexual orientation," she said. listen to audio file

Fadzai explained that GALZ only works with people who have reached the legal age of majority, which is 18 in Zimbabwe. GALZ does not assist those below 18 and those in schools for fear that they will be accused of "recruiting" homosexuals. However GALZ does refer those 18 and younger who need help to other support organisations.

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