Two flags fly side by side over the corner of a quiet tree-lined street and a busy thoroughfare in one of Harare’s inner northern suburbs. There is the red, gold, black and green of Zimbabwe‘s national standard (let‘s not talk of the splash of white just now). But beside it flutters something even more colourful: the international symbol of gay pride. The rainbow flag signifies the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity within the unity of the whole, humanity, democratic rights and freedoms for all citizens.
It is a remarkable statement of self-confidence by GALZ (formerly Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe), the owner of the property from which the flags have been hoisted. The association itself has been around for over two decades providing social and legal support, counselling, sexual health education, research, and lobbying for sexual minority rights. Its social centre dates from 1996 courtesy of the courage of its founders and the generosity (and discipline) of its principal funders, HIVOS and the Atlantic Philanthropies, notably. GALZ maintains a website and puts out a well-written, sometimes quite combative newsletter/magazine. Among GALZ’ numerous other publications is an overview of the history of same-sex sexuality in southern Africa from pre-colonial times (that is, within traditional African cultures), and a thoroughly referenced legal brief that argued for the inclusion of sexual orientation in the proposed (but eventually aborted) 1999 constitution (GALZ 1999). (Read more…)