Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. Edward Abbey

15 May 2003

Report lifts lid on 'state sponsored homophobia'
Cape Town - 14 May 2003

Many southern African leaders had singled out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as scapegoats for their countries' problems, the Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said in a new report.

The report documents pervasive harassment and violence against sexual minorities in southern Africa. Titled "More Than a Name: State-sponsored Homophobia and its Consequences in Southern Africa", documents verbal attacks, police harassment, official crackdowns, and community violence aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

It claims victims had been assaulted, imprisoned, expelled from schools, fired from jobs, denied access to medical care, evicted from their homes, and driven into exile or, in some cases, to suicide.

The organisations said that when political leaders such as Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe made speeches that gays and lesbians were "worse than dogs and pigs", it should come as no surprise that violent attacks followed.

The report examined conditions in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The report said that while South Africa prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution, the equality guaranteed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was fragile, and even endangered by the "silence and foot-dragging of political leaders in South Africa".

The two organisations will call on the governments of all five countries to refrain from promoting intolerance and from inciting discrimination and abuse.

It further recommended that:
  • positive protections against discrimination be enacted;
  • awareness of rights protections and how to use them be promoted and publicised, and
  • mechanisms be created to address discrimination and abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

    Deputy-director for the programme at Human Rights Watch Widney Brown said they had worked closely with many non-governmental organisations to identify and interview lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people as well as other victims of abuse or discrimination.

    The identities of many people interviewed were protected. Among those interviewed for the report were human rights activists, women's rights activists, lawyers, HIV/Aids peer educators and organisers, academics, journalists and government officials.

    Brown said she was hoping to meet with government officials to discuss the report. + Sapa
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