Gay rights in Africa, Zimbabwe

The heat generated by the issue of gay rights in America is just barely lukewarm compared with what one finds on the African continent. In an article on same-sex marriage in Portugal a couple of weeks ago, the NY Times provided this graphic:

which shows 10 sub-Saharan countries with penalties of 10 or more years of prison time for gay male relationships (and many other countries have less severe penalties, let alone widespread informal discrimination). Only in South Africa — where actual treatment of gays varies widely throughout the country — is gay marriage legal.

The interesting news this week is Morgan Tsvangirai’s bold statement that he would support gay rights in Zimbabwe were he to become president. In the BBC story and interview, not only did Tsvangirai reverse his 2010 statement on the issue — agreeing with Mugabe’s view on the matter — but he proclaimed that this was a “human right.”

For some time, I have been trying to find the time to do some systematic research explaining cross-country variation on attitudes and policies towards gays… and I am still trying. In the meantime, I would love to know what led Tsvangirai to make this statement — one that is clearly not going to score him any important political points at election time next year.

6 thoughts on “Gay rights in Africa, Zimbabwe

  1. We as zimbabweans we forever and ever never back up this kind of practice if Tsangirai back up this it’s already reflets his failure to the vasty majority of Zim

  2. I have an idea about your last question: The UK has just announced that it will look into reducing support for countries that discriminate against homosexuals. This policy obviously would not only include the reduction of budget aid for governments, but also less foreign policy support for parties and individuals that advocate anti-gay laws.

    I think Tsvangirai knows that even if he gets overwhelming popular support in Zimbabwe, he has no chance of coming to power without the pressure of some important outside allies. I see this flip-flopping as a strategy to gain or enhance UK support.

    1. An interesting idea. I would say, however, that there is no doubt that Tsvangarai will get UK support — not much chance they will do anything for ZANU-PF or Mugabe. So the question is whether Tsvangarai is doing this because of A) conviction; B) as you say, some sense that this will curry even more favor with the British; or C) the British have exerted leverage and proactively asked (told) him to reverse course on this one. Obviously B and C are related here, but I would guess that C is the most likely story.

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