Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category
Keith Goddard 1960 – 2009
Director of Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe
London – 11 October 2009
Members of the British LGBT human rights group OutRage! extend their condolences to our comrades in Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe and to the family and friends of Keith Goddard, following his illness and tragic death on 9 October 2009.
He was a true hero of the freedom struggle in Zimbabwe, and made a major contribution to GALZ’s campaigns and successes over a period of nearly two decades.
OutRage! is very proud and honoured to have worked with Keith and GALZ from the early 1990s onwards, supporting their many struggles against the homophobia and tyranny of the Mugabe / ZANU-PF regime.
We stood with Keith and his courageous GALZ comrades as they resisted state harassment, defended individual LGBT people, demanded their rightful place at successive Book Fairs and defied President Mugabe’s many public theats and attacks on LGBT Zimbabweans.
When OutRage! attempted its two citizen’s arrests of President Robert Mugabe, in London in 1999 and in Brussels in 2001, Keith offered his congratulations. He reported that these attempts had a huge positive effect inside Zimbabwe. They prompted, he said, the Zimbabwean media to interview GALZ many times over and to report LGBT human rights issues to an extent that had rarely, if ever, happened before. Keith was usually the GALZ person interviewed and he used these media opportunities very effectively to challenge homophobic ignorance and prejudice – and to eloquently set out the case for equality.
Politically astute and a highly effective campaign strategist, Keith built links with other human rights activists in Zimbabwe in a successful bid to put LGBT equality at the heart of the mainstream Zimbabwean human rights movment. He and his GALZ comrades have done magnificent work to build broad support for LGBT rights in a future post-ZANU-PF Zimbabwe, when Mugabe is history.
On a personal level, Keith was an immensely kind, generous, supportive, warm-hearted person. I remember some wonderful, enjoyable evenings with him during his periodic visits to London.
A non-sectarian bridge-builder, he despised personal attacks and infighting. He was supportive of myself and OutRage! at times when others were not . In 2007, a number of African LGBT activists were goaded by false allegations into a signing a letter denouncing us. Keith refused. He knew, from many years of working with OutRage!, that these allegations were untrue. We were very grateful for Keith’s honourable stand against political sectarianism.
Keith was also, like all GALZ activists, very brave: unafraid to take a public stand for LGBT human rights, despite police and government repression. He risked his liberty and life many times, speaking out against homophobia and transphobia, even though this marked him as a potential target for state and vigilante violence. The danger of kidnapping, arrest, imprisonment, torture and murder never deterred him.
Keith will be remembered as a pioneer and hero of the LGBT liberation struggle in Africa. We salute him.
Peter Tatchell, OutRage!, London, UK
Peter Tatchell celebrated his fortieth year of campaigning on 10th December, Human Rights Day.
The Australian-born activist began campaigning for human rights, democracy and global justice in 1967, aged 15.
Now, at 55, his eyes still have the vividness and energy of a teenager, and he has no intention to retire, because, he says, there is still much work to do.
Speaking in his home in South London, surrounded by hundreds of documents on human rights issues, books and magazines about LGBT rights, and satirical posters of religious leaders, he talks about his long career and his many experiences.
But the list is so long, including campaigns against apartheid, dictators and torturers, and in favour of green issues, gay marriage and revision of the age of consent, that it is hard to believe he can cope with all that.
PinkNews.co.uk: How can you manage to campaign for all these issues?
Peter Tatchell: With great difficulty. I haven’t got much leisure time, not nearly as much as I would like. I desperately need an office, and a couple of paid staff to work.
Most of my campaigns are in response to appeals for help from individuals and organisations in Britain and around the world, but I get many more questions that I can possibly cope with, so I have to choose.
I tend to focus on issues where there is very little knowledge or coverage.
PinkNews.co.uk: For example?
PT: I helped highlight the loss of benefits to many same-sex couples in civil partnerships, that was an issue that no other organisation was covering.
I have taken up the cause of a number of gay Muslim asylum seekers, who couldn’t get help from other organisations. Until recently, very few Western gay organisations were supporting the campaigns of activists in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, Iran, Palestine and Iraq.
PinkNews.co.uk: What about the UK? What do you think about gay rights here?
PT: We have got formal legal equality, but we haven’t got liberation. Even the battle for equal rights is incomplete. We still have a ban on same-sex marriage, which is a form of sexual apartheid.
If the government banned Jewish or black people from getting married and offered civil partnerships instead, people would be on the streets.
But the LGBT community has rolled over and accepted this inferior, second-class legal status.
PinkNews.co.uk: What exactly do you think gay people should aim for?
PT: Equality is not enough. There is little point being equal in a fundamentally unjust society. The idea that straight people live in some kind of paradise is absurd.
We need to transform society, not to conform to it. I advocate civil commitment pacts, in which people can choose their own individualised, tailor-made partnership agreements.
In our society there is a great variety of relationships and the law needs to recognise this diversity.
PinkNews.co.uk: What do you think about the Vatican and its attempts to hamper protection and recognition for gay people?
PT: The sooner someone outs Pope Benedict, the better. His homophobic policies remind me of the Inquisition, and the Hitler Youth, of which he was a member.
All the closeted homophobes in the Vatican should be outed, they are destroying the lives of LGBT people worldwide.
PinkNews.co.uk: A few days ago, the pope said that gay people threaten peace, how would you respond to that?
PT: These are the rantings of a semi-deranged Christian fundamentalist and a theocrat, whose ego is so enormous that he believes he has a hot-line to God.
If any ordinary person in the street did it, they’d probably put them in a mental asylum. It is amazing the indulgences that are allowed for the so-called “men of God.”
Pope Benedict he is the ideological inheritor of the Nazi homophobia. He’d like to eradicate homosexuality, but since he can’t put LGBT people in physical concentration camps, is doing his best to put them in psychological concentration camps.
PinkNews.co.uk: An issue that you are fighting for is the change of the age of consent.
PT: I am astonished by the way so many LGBT organisations are reluctant to challenge the often unrealistic age of consent that exists in Britain.
The age of 16 is totally out of step with young people, as the average age they start having sex is 13 or 14 in the UK.
I’m not saying that they should have sex, but if they do, they shouldn’t be criminalised. Under British law, two young people, gay or straight, under the age of 16, who kiss or cuddle can face a prison sentence up to five years.
PinkNews.co.uk: What is your view of the LGBT organisations in the UK, such as Stonewall?
PT: Stonewall has a very conformist, assimilationist agenda. It doesn’t question the legal status quo, it merely conforms with it.
Obviously equality is better than inequality, but it isn’t sufficient and is not liberation.
PinkNews.co.uk: Let’s talk about yourself. What is the thing you are most proud of?
PT: Many. The citizen’s arrest of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe in 1999 and 2001, for his crimes against humanity. The ambush of Tony Blair in 2003 to protest against the impending war in Iraq.
The interruption of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1998 during one of his sermons, to condemn his discrimination against gay people.
PinkNews.co.uk: Name a person you admire.
PT: There is more than one. Gandhi, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Sylvia Pankhurst.
PinkNews.co.uk: OK. To finish, in two words maximum, how would you describe these people or groups?
Pope Benedict XVI: homophobic hypocrite.
Rowan Williams: coward.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad: theocratic fascist.
Russian President Vladimir Putin: Stalin lite.
Stonewall: equality only.
Gordon Brown: new Blair.
Tony Blair: tragedy.
Outrage! (the movement founded by Tatchell in 1990): effective.
What does it mean when your very existence is criminalized? When you can be sentenced to death or prison just for being yourself? When stepping outside your house makes you a target for violence or for being picked up by police? While these scenarios might initially seem to be the stuff of Kafkaesque fantasy, in many parts of the world they constitute the daily reality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people—a reality that is brutal and relentless—and worthy of attention on this International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2007.
Many of us responded with disbelief last September when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that there were no gay people in his country. But the Iranian President’s words betray a twisted truth. While there are plenty of LGBT Iranians, there is no public, visible gay presence in Iran. Because the penalty for same-sex conduct between men in Iran is death, gay life in Iran remains hidden, under threat of extermination. The execution just last week of Makvan Mouloodzadeh, a 21-year-old Iranian man accused of having sex with other young boys when he was 13 years old makes this point excruciatingly clear.
In other words, when your existence is criminalized, your human rights are compromised. Your rights to life, liberty and security of the person are eviscerated. Your privacy is a chimera. You don’t count.
And of course, this doesn’t just happen in Iran. More than 75 countries worldwide—from Afganistan to Zimbabwe, and from Sri Lanka to the Solomon Islands—still criminalize consensual same-sex relationships. Many of these laws are vestiges of colonial attempts to “civilize the savages.” In all countries, these laws are strictly oppositional to modern standards of human rights and respect for individual choice with regard to family, sexuality and relationships.
In Nigeria, homosexual acts can be punished by 14 years of imprisonment. And the situation for LGBT people in that country is grim. An activist living in northwest Nigeria says that she has “worked on a case of a transgender person who was picked up by police simply for being transgender… [and] helped a girl who was perceived by the community to be gay. She was beaten, raped and left unconscious.” In Nigeria, being gay means contending with a stark choice: hide who you are or become a target for violence and abuse.
Cameroon is another country where LGBT individuals experience consistent and severe human rights violations. Here more than 13 people have recently been detained under an article of the penal code that prohibits consensual same-sex sexual relationships between adults. On International Human Rights Day, various human rights organizations will stage demonstrations outside Cameroonian embassies in Paris, Pretoria and Washington, D.C., to protest that country’s treatment of LGBT citizens and those who stand in solidarity with them.
When your existence is criminalized, it is important that others stand in solidarity with you—both to protest injustice and to fight for a better world, one where people are treated with dignity, not distain.
International Human Rights Day marks the day in 1948 that the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This central global human rights principle states that, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This year, International Human Rights Day also marks the start of Dignity and Justice for All, a yearlong United Nations campaign designed to emphasize the universality of human rights—a universality that has often felt lacking to LGBT communities.
Dignity and respect for LGBT people must start with each country abolishing laws that criminalize consensual relations between two men or two women. Without freedom from criminalization, all other freedoms for LGBT people are compromised. We must call on each nation to show their belief in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by repealing laws that are so clearly an affront to dignity and respect.
By Peter Tatchell
This weekend President Robert Mugabe will stride the stage at the EU-African Union Summit in Lisbon. He will be welcomed and feted, alongside all the other leaders of Africa and Europe.
For the people of Zimbabwe it will be a sickening spectacle to see their blood-soaked oppressor wined and dined by the Portuguese President, Aníbal António Cavaco Silva.
Mugabe is not the world’s only tyrant and not even the worst. Nevertheless, he has killed more black Africans than even the murderous apartheid regime in South Africa. His slaughter of 20,000 civilians in Matabeleland in the 1980s was the equivalent of a Sharpeville massacre every day for over nine months.
According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s despotic regime is guilty of detention without trial, torture, rape, extra-judicial killings, media censorship, financial corruption, election fraud, mass starvation and the violent suppression of strikes and protests.
Instead of embracing President Mugabe as an honoured guest, the Portuguese government should instruct its police to arrest him on charges of torture.
It is time to end the culture of impunity, which allows tyrannical leaders to get away with human rights abuses. Torture is a crime under international law. Mugabe, and other torture-condoning despots, should be prosecuted. Giving them state immunity is collusion with their crimes.
There is evidence from Amnesty International and from Zimbabwean human rights groups
that President Mugabe and his government have sanctioned and colluded with acts of torture. He should be arrested and put on trial, in the same way that President Milosevic of Yugoslavia was tried in The Hague.
Portugal is legally obliged to enforce the UN Convention Against Torture 1984, which it has ratified and pledged to uphold.
The Convention Against Torture has universal jurisdiction. It allows any signatory state to arrest and put on trial any person who authorises, commits or acquiesces in the infliction of torture anywhere in the world. In other words, Mugabe can be lawfully arrested and tried in Portugal for crimes that he has aided and abetted in Zimbabwe.
Despite past legal rulings granting government leaders exemption from prosecution, the trend in international law is towards rejecting the right of Heads of State to enjoy absolute immunity for crimes against humanity, such as torture.
This legal evolution began with the Versailles Treaty of 1919. The signatory nations accepted that high state officials who stand accused of “offences against international morality” cannot plead that they are above the law. Article 227 of the Treaty set the precedent in international law that Heads of State are not immune from prosecution, when it arraigned the German Emperor, William II.
The 1946 Nuremberg Tribunal reiterated this precedent by ruling that the top Nazi leaders, including Karl Doenitz, Hitler’s successor as German leader, did not enjoy immunity for crimes against humanity. Article 7 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal stipulated that: “The official position of defendants, whether as Heads of State or responsible officials in Government departments, shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment.” Doenitz was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years jail.
Principle Three of the Nuremberg Principles, agreed by the nations of Europe as international law, declared: “The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law”.
For Portugal and the EU to now renege on the Nuremberg Principles is a monstrous betrayal of the millions who perished in the Holocaust and the millions more who sacrificed their lives to end the tyranny of the Third Reich.