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U.S. State Department Condemns Zimbabwe for Arrest of 44 Gay Activists

The U.S. State Department has issued a statement condemning the Government of Zimbabwe’s violent arrest and detention of 44 gay activists in Zimbabwe. The statement expresses deep concern over the use of security forces for political violence. The State Department calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe “to end this pattern of abuse and to eradicate the culture of impunity that allows members of the security sector to continue to violate the rights of the Zimbabwean people.”

The 44 individuals arrested on August 11th were members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz). The members were arrested at the organization’s office after it held an event launching a report on human rights violations against gay and lesbian people in Zimbabwe. According to a statement by Galz, “four police officers attempted to gain entry into the premises before calling for back up where about fifteen riot squad members descended on the office and effected arrest.” The activist were detained overnight and then released. Some have been summoned to report back to authorities. The police followed the arrest by raiding the Galz office on August 20th, confiscating the organization’s computers, pamphlets, and other documents.

The State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2011 states that “common law [in Zimbabwe] prevents gay men, and to a lesser extent lesbians, from fully expressing their sexual orientation and, in some cases, criminalizes the display of affection between men.”  It also reports that the president of Zimbabwe has publicly denounced the LGBT community by blaming it for Africa’s ills and saying its members are worse than “pigs and dogs.”  Moreover, the report documents “assault, harassment and discrimination” faced by the members of Galz in 2011, including instances of “corrective rape,” forced marriages, and brutal beatings by the police.

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