Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on July 5 said authorities should arrest gays and lesbians who don’t conceive children.
“I should like to shut them-up in some room and see if they get pregnant; if they don’t then it’s jail because they have claimed they can have children,” the tabloid New Zimbabwe quoted Mugabe as saying during a rally in Harare, the country’s capital, at which he unveiled the platform of his party, ZANU-PF, ahead of the African nation’s July 31 elections. “So, to that kind of rot, we say no, no, no, no!”
The tabloid further reported that Mugabe criticized the Anglican Church for blessing same-sex marriages.
“Obama said he wished that we in Africa accepted gay marriages,” Mugabe said. “Parents, tell your children that we are against gay marriage.”
Mugabe, whom Zimbabweans elected president in 1987 after he had served as the country’s first post-independence prime minister from 1980, has previously used homophobic rhetoric against gays and lesbians.
He described gay men and lesbians who participated in the annual International Book Festival in Harare in 1995 as “dogs and pigs.” LGBTQ Nation reported Mugabe said during a speech he gave a Roman Catholic-run teacher’s college in the city of Masvingo in southeastern Zimbabwe last month that gays and lesbians “should rot in jail” as he suggested the country’s anti-homosexuality laws are too lenient.
The State Department last August criticized the Zimbabwean government’s crackdown on LGBT rights activists after police arrested more than 40 members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) inside the advocacy group’s Harare office. GALZ members, who routinely face harassment and even death threats, said authorities confiscated computers and pamphlets from the same office a few days earlier.
New Zimbabwe also reported that Mugabe during his Harare speech on July 5 referenced former President Canaan Banana, who in 1998 received a 10 year prison sentence after his conviction on charges sodomy, attempted sodomy and indecent assault against his former male employees.
Mugabe’s comments came less than two weeks after Obama applauded the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in response to a question he received during a press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, Senegal.
Obama also reaffirmed his opposition to the criminalization of homosexuality.
“When it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally,” he said. “I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort. That’s my personal view.”
Amnesty International noted in a report it released on June 24 — two days before Obama left for his week-long trip to Africa that also included visits to South Africa and Tanzania — that 38 African countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex conduct.
A senior administration official on Monday declined to comment, saying the White House would not “dignify Mugabe’s comments with a response.”
The Zimbabwean embassy in D.C. did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment.
A GALZ member with whom the Blade spoke earlier this year in the nation’s capital said ZANU-PF is going to “use the issue of homosexuality as one of their campaign tools” ahead of the July 31 elections.
GALZ Chair Samba Chesterfield urged Mugabe to “desist from making such hate filled statements that impact on the lives of LGBT people” during an interview with LGBTQ Nation.
“Mugabe needs to deal with issues such as unemployment, impunity, access to clean water and corruption in government, rather than such rhetoric that does not do much to win over a despondent electorate,” Chesterfield told the website.