Surprising news from Zimbabwe. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has reversed his position on gay rights, now saying they are "human rights" and should be enshrined in the country's new constitution, reports the BBC.
Mr Tsvangirai told BBC's Newsnight programme that there was a "very strong cultural feeling" against homosexuality in Zimbabwe, but he would defend gay rights if he became president.
"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 Newsnight's Gavin Esler. "To me, it's a human right," he said.
Mr Tsvangirai's U-turn suggests that he now wants Zimbabwe to adopt a liberal policy, similar to that of neighbouring South Africa. But he will face strong resistance from Mr Mugabe, who will exploit Mr Tsvangirai's U-turn to drum up support for himself in the run-up to the election, correspondents say.
Zimbabwe is in the process of drafting a new constitution. Tsvangirai has previously called for more tolerance of gays. But in March 2010 he joined President Robert Mugabe and said that gay rights would not be considered in the new constitution. And now:
Tsvangirai's reversal comes only days before the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia. British, Canadian and Australian leaders are expected to ask African nations to decriminalize same-sex relations in an effort to fight rampant HIV rates across the global south.
Zimbabwe's despotic government is rabidly anti-gay. Same-sex acts are currently illegal in Zimbabwe, as they are in most African countries. Gay men and transgender women face widespread harassment, violence and rape in Zimbabwe, the U.S. State Department reported in its annual human rights survey. Two LGBT activists were arrested and tortured last year. Both were acquitted of all charges.
Neighboring South Africa is the only nation on the continent that guarantees gay rights and marriage equality.
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