[This article does not mean in any way to trivialise the struggle by sexual minorities for their rights, neither does it seek to force the writers’ own views on sexual minority rights on the reader. Rather it is a call on a nation blinded by intolerance and hate to see how political leaders are manipulating that intolerance to drive their own agenda to derail meaningful constitutional reforms]
“Where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home-so close and so small that they can not be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the nighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world” [Eleanor Roosevelt on the Universal declaration of human rights]
This quote speaks to the essence of what Zimbabweans, as a people need right now, a concerted popular effort to demand human dignity and all that comes with it. We need food on our tables; decent wages and employment; a good education for our children; proper health-care including affordable medication when we need it; roofs over our heads; reliable electricity supply; running and clean water; and proper working sewer systems. These are things we should be demanding to see in a new constitution and as Eleanor Roosevelt said, without concerted citizen action, as Zimbabweans we will continue to look to ‘donors’ to assist us, yet we could solve our problems ourselves.
Yet, overnight, we have stopped deliberating over these fundamental issues. Suddenly, the discussion on a constitution that carries all fundamental rights has been overtaken by the debate on whether gays and lesbians’ rights should be put in the constitution. People’s focus has been shifted from socio-economic guarantees and political freedoms to one issue-homosexuality. So, will Zimbabweans blindly accept a constitution that has no guarantees for either economic, social and cultural rights or basic freedoms simply because it does not contain gays and lesbians’ rights? Will we also blindly reject a constitutional framework that has all these guarantees simply because it also contains gays and lesbians’ rights?
Have we forgotten our fight for justice, freedom, equality, and dignity which began with the liberation struggle and cost the lives of many? Is this what our liberators died for; a nation of hypocrites who fornicate, commit adultery, lie, steal, murder, oppress the poor and yet find themselves better ‘sinners’ than others?
Who are we to judge gays and lesbians? Who are we to condemn them to the extent of segregating and ostracising them? What makes us think they are worse-off sinners than we are? From a Christian standpoint, if we find their behavior sinful are we then being Christ-like when we shun them? Should we not be drawing them into our circles as disciples of Christ and evangelists so they may know the truth we purport to know? Tolerance which Christ preaches demands that we take standpoints against their behavior not individuals, deeds not the doers, choices not the choosers and hence be our brothers’ keepers; are we doing that when we remove them from our circles and call them trash, filth, pigs and dogs? Who and what give us the moral standpoint to consider our own sins less “sinful” than their perceived sins? Why have we all become God- to be the judge and condemn and even kill (in the case of Uganda and David Kato) and rape (corrective rape in South Africa)and deem that they deserve to “be punished severely for their behaviour which is inconsistent with African and Christian values” in our case? [Excerpt from the Herald 24/11/11]
As for Zimbabweans one thing stands clear to me, we have been waylaid!!!
We must always remember that politicians have an agenda and will play on our emotional and moral senses to manipulate circumstances to their own advantage. We are being manipulated and most of us do not even see it. Our oh-so-upright population (my foot) is up in arms against gays and lesbians and has been brainwashed to reject a constitution that so much as mentions that,
“every person has the right to marry a person of their choice.”
The individuals leading this campaign because they find gays and lesbians ‘morally reprehensible’ have committed or instigated the murder, disappearance, torture, abduction, rape, sodomisation, and grave assault of men, women and children to remain in power. Why has the nation suddenly become so blind to their sinfulness? Do these leaders really care about this issue or are they not merely using the question of homosexuality to derail the constitution-making process by diverting our attention from issues they never want to see contained in the constitution?
I think we need to wake up and smell the coffee. Let us leave God to judge His people as He commands. Our priority should be to challenge issues that shape our day to day lives. Whether or not gays and lesbians’ rights are part of our constitution will not bring food to our tables nor guarantee water in our homes. It will neither stop the incessant power cuts nor will it guarantee the nation’s political freedoms. This I believe we need to learn.