HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – A trendy Zimbabwean restaurant has reopened but without the appearance of a South African gay celebrity following complaints from a group of conservative churches and members of the ruling party.
Cancellation of visit by television celebrity Somizi Mhlongo highlights discrimination faced by members of the LGBTI community “on a daily basis” in homophobia-ridden Zimbabwe, an advocacy group said on Friday Rights.
Members of the youth wing of the ruling ZANU-PF party and the Zimbabwe Apostolic Christian Council have vowed to block an appearance by Mhlongo. The owners of the restaurant have remained silent on the issue.
Mhlongo, who organizes gourmet restaurant events in South Africa and is a judge on the “Idols South Africa” television show, has announced that he will not be visiting Zimbabwe.
“The truth is, there are people in Zimbabwe who don’t want me to come because of my sexuality, they made it clear,” he said in an Instagram post. Instead, he attended an event in neighboring Namibia on Thursday evening.
Zimbabwe has always been the victim of discrimination and harassment against LGBTI people, with former President Robert Mugabe once describing them as “worse than dogs and pigs” and declaring that they have no legal rights.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has spoken less against LGBTI people, but hostility from sections of society remains.
The uproar involving Mhlongo “is not an isolated incident,” said Chester Samba, director of GALZ, an LGBTI rights group.
Discrimination “plays out in many ways,” he told The Associated Press on Friday.
Sometimes when LGBTI people report crimes such as theft and violence against them, “the police have responded by arresting them rather than the perpetrator, often in the hope of making financial profit from the victims by exploiting their fear. to be exhibited, ”Samba said.
Members of Zimbabwe’s LGBTI community have also faced discrimination when trying to get vaccinated against COVID-19, he said. GALZ worked to “support the vaccination campaign by partnering with health service providers to provide services in premises where our communities feel comfortable accessing them without harassment,” he said. .
Debate over the issue rages on social media in Zimbabwe. Some people have accused anti-LGBTI groups of hypocrisy by openly associating with religious groups that promote child marriage.
Sex between men is a crime in Zimbabwe punishable by up to one year in prison, and the country’s constitution prohibits same-sex marriages.
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