GALZ & the International LGBTI Community
One of the first activities of the newly formed GALZ was to apply, in 1991, for membership to the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). A GALZ representative attended the 1993 ILGA World Conference in Paris and, since then, GALZ has had a regular presence at the world body with the association sending 15 representatives to the Johannesburg World Conference in 1999.
It was not until the raging controversy surrounding GALZ’s participation at the1995 Zimbabwe International Book Fair that GALZ was able to attract the serious attention of international watchdogs such as Amnesty International. Amnesty began to keep a close watch over GALZ activists, issued statements condemning Zimbabwe’s state-led homophobia and instigated letter-writing campaigns in support of LGBTI rights in Zimbabwe.
In 1996, GALZ activist, Pollyanna Mangwiro, became the first lesbian activist ever to be adopted as an Amnesty International Human Rights Defender. In 2001, she visited Europe and America on an Amnesty International speakers’ tour, explaining to audiences the problems facing lesbian and gay people in her home country.
Again in 1996, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) actively began to support the LGBTI struggle in Zimbabwe, producing its own press releases and widely distributing GALZ statements.
In December 1998, IGLHRC and Amnesty International sent representatives to Harare to support GALZ in its efforts to participate in the cultural and human rights showcase surrounding the 8th Summit of the World Council of Churches in Harare.
In 2003, IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch produced a joint report entitled More than a Name: State Sponsored Homophobia and Its Consequences in Southern Africa which GALZ helped compile and in which GALZ activists feature prominently.
In 2005, GALZ was awarded the prestigious IGLHRC Felipa Award for its outstanding contribution to the struggle for LGBTI rights on the African continent. GALZ Programme Manager for Gender, Fadzai Muparutsa, flew to New York to receive the prize. (Read her speech)
Perhaps one of GALZ’s most colourful and controversial international allies is Peter Tatchell of the London-based Queer human rights group, Outrage! Tatchell and his Outrage! colleagues made two dramatic attempts to arrest Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, for crimes against humanity. The first took place in London in November 1999, the second in Brussels in 2002. The list of crimes Tatchell read out to Mugabe included the senseless slaughter of thousands of Matabele civilians by the President’s Korean-trained troops in the early 1980s, the torture in 1999 of two journalists employed by Zimbabwean newspaper, The Standard on Sunday, and his incitement of violence against lesbian and gay people. Although Tatchell did not succeed on either occasion, the theatre of it all certainly caught the imagination of the world and focused attention on the excesses of the Mugabe regime.