The situation for gay men and lesbians is bleak in the nation of Zimbabwe. Gays face widespread harassment, violence, rape and gay men have been forced to perform heterosexual sex, the United States State Department finds in its annual human rights report in Zimbabwe.
The reports comes the same week the southern African nation begins drafting its new constitution. President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai rejected calls to include gay rights.
"Gay men were forced into heterosexual acts and lesbian women were raped, sometimes by male relatives, to teach them to change their ways, said Amanda Porter, political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Harare and compiler of the report. 'Some families reportedly subjected men and women to corrective rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct' she said Tuesday. Homosexuals reported widespread discrimination in 2009, the year under review. But the report notes that the conservative southern African country has long frowned on homosexuality. Hate speech by politicians against the nation's small gay community fueled social pressures on families, Porter said. And crimes against human rights and sexual abuse against gays were rarely reported to police. 'Victims are afraid to speak out,' she said.
Mugabe—who infamously described gays as "worse than dogs and pigs"—recently enacted tougher anti-sodomy legislation and a statute that makes simple touching between men a criminal offense. The offense carries a penalty of up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $5,000. There have been no reported prosecutions related to consensual homosexuality in recent years but several gay activists have fled the nation claiming harassment by Mugabe's secret police.
Prime Tsvangirai said he personally shared an abhorrence of homosexuality, but called for tolerance toward all minority groups.
The annual U.S. rights review of Zimbabwe gives "greater emphasis to gay rights than in previous years" reflecting the Obama Administration's concerns on homophobia and human rights.
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