Last year around this time The right Honourable Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe made some remarks in support of gay rights in the UK. The backlash that followed was unprecedented for such innocuous statements.
Now, a year on and with the constitutional draft still unclear on the issue, I thought to repost my own article from last year.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is being attacked left, right and centre over his recent utterances concerning gay rights on a BBC interview. His remarks have started a heated debate amongst the Zimbabwean public with the main question being, “Should the constitution allow same sex marriages?”
The majority of Zimbabweans are against homosexuality, a practice they view as disgusting, western and unchristian. Their argument is simple, homosexuality, they say, is against both Christian teachings and our traditional values. This group (which now calls the Prime Minister ‘MORGAY’), will quickly tell you to read Genesis chapter 19 which tells of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Among the many sins of the citizens of those two cities was homosexuality.
I understand this camp; after all I don’t want Zimbabwe to be consumed by “fire and brimstone”, as was the fate of Sodom, Gomorrah and two other cities. Their favourite statement is, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”. Of course they conveniently forget to mention Luke 6:37 which forbids man from judging man, remembering instead that the Prime Minister should get married. A woman, they claim, would drive all thoughts of gay rights from his head!
The smaller camp wants gays and lesbians to be protected by the constitution, maintaining that human rights also include sexual freedom. They include the Prime Minister, whose impolitic remarks sparked this debate, human right activists, academics and maybe the gays themselves. They argue that some people are not bound by religion or tradition, adding that some cases are biological rather than choice. True democracy and freedom, they say, include freedom of sexual partners. After all, they add, when man sins against God then he will answer to God- just like the Sodomites.
Furthermore most people, if not all, commit some form of sin which is not allowed by the bible or tradition. Who then has the authority to determine which moral sin is illegal? Perhaps the government could start by outlawing infidelity, sex before marriage and other forms of immorality. One cannot help feeling that their argument has more weight but lacks in numbers.
Biology also plays an important role in a person’s sexuality, some are born that way and we cannot change their genetic wiring. For such people being gay is not something they chose and we should accept them as they are. Should they be punished for a sin they did not commit, for a biological mishap? Additionally homosexuality has very little effect on other members of the society. Anti-gays will tell you that there is a limit on personal liberty, for example, drugs don’t really affect the people around you yet they remain illegal. In such cases, as in many others, the Christians suggest exorcism in addition to prayer and the traditionalists blame the ancestors.
The arguments for and against gay marriages are many and varied- ranging from the usual, “It is an unnatural practice” to “who are you to tell anyone who to sleep with?” Traditionalists say homosexuals must produce natural children first, those who support gay rights counter saying love, not the ability to pro-create, is necessary for marriage, otherwise the law would also bar barren men and women from marrying. Human right activists say outlawing homosexuality is discrimination, those who are anti-gay say it is a necessary evil- one which protects our values and morals as Africans and Zimbabweans, adding that gay marriages weaken the definition and respect of the institution of marriage.
Christianity preaches peace and tolerance and also tells Christians not to judge others; Hinduism is not clear on homosexuality whereas Islam’s idea of ‘heaven’ for men includes virgins- perhaps some of them boys. The fact that some Christian churches allow gays also takes some wind out of the anti-gay camp’s sails. Homosexuality is a thorny issue, pitting human rights on one hand, morality and religion on the other.
But who defines what is moral, using what basis? What of those whose religions – or lack thereof- allow homosexuality? Should the minority have what the majority says imposed on them? Are we not risking becoming a society which is inimical to diversity? Surely the government has more pressing issues to discuss, policies to formulate, an economy to improve, civil servants to pay and a lot of other things to do.
So what is the way forward, should the constitution allow same-sex marriages? If we do, what signals will it send to our children and youths, won’t they be confused about gender roles in the society? What will you do if your son comes and says, “Mom and Dad, I’m marrying John, yes, John from next door”? The answer here is a big NO; on this the people of Zimbabwe are united. If the issue is put before the people it might become worse; I think the majority would vote for stiffer sentences like castration, death or life in prison. Ah and like I said, I have no intention of perishing like the inhabitants of Sodom- I have always imagined a peaceful death at the ripe old age of ninety five.
The problem is that the gays themselves are silent on the issue, becoming spectators in a game they should be playing. I don’t blame them, the law is clear and the punishment is harsh, Zimbabwean jails are not known for their hospitality either, but from what I hear homosexuality is rampant there- the gays might enjoy jail time after all……..
- The Prime Minister has since married albeit controversially
- The draft constitution does not allow marriage between two people of the same sex. However it does not explicitly state whether such relationships are illegal.