Zim on agenda at Chogm

Although unilaterally removed from the Commonwealth in 2003 by President Robert Mugabe - confronted with tough questions on electoral violence and fraud in 2002 - Zimbabwe is firmly on the discussion table of the current Heads of Government Meeting in Perth.

Lord (Guy) Black of Brentwood: time for Club action against homophobes.
Lord (Guy) Black of Brentwood: time for Club action against homophobes.

A public march, a panel discussion and a special report will see attention focussed on the future of Zimbabwe within the Commonwealth. The marchers will call on Chogm and SADC leaders to end the daily incidents of political violence in Zimbabwe, secure the dropping of charges against Munyaradzi Gwisai and all political prisoners, uphold human rights and ensure the holding of fair and free elections. Some countries in the grouping of former British colonies want Zimbabwe readmitted unconditionally as an incentive to encourage the coalition government to speed up democratic reforms.

Others particularly African countries want their western counterparts to remove targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle as a way of pushing him to embrace reforms required before the country can be readmitted.

Also on the agenda will be the issue of homophobia. Campaigners Peter Tatchell and Lord (Guy) Black of Brentwood have urged the 54 member states to take strong and immediate action against political leaders who threaten gays with arrest, imprisonment, torture and sometimes death. More than 40 Commonwealth countries currently criminalise homosexuality, mostly as a result of laws that were imposed by Britain during the colonial era and which were not repealed when these nations won their independence. These 40-plus Commonwealth member states account for more than half of the world’s countries that still criminalise same-sex relations.

Homosexual acts are still punishable by life imprisonment in seven Commonwealth countries – Bangladesh, Barbados, Guiana, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda. In a further six Commonwealth nations this “crime” is punishable by hard labour. In Malaysia, convicted gays face imprisonment up to 20 years plus flogging: in Trinidad and Tobago the sentences are usually 25 years.

At a political rally in 2008 President Jammeh of Gambia said if homosexuals are caught in his West African state they would be beheaded.

“I don’t think there’s going to be an easy answer. If the Commonwealth is to mean anything, we have to respect different religions and different faiths but I do think that even if it isn’t couched in terms of public health, there are ways we can make progress while still respecting the variety of cultures and backgrounds we come from,” said Brentwood.

In many parts of the world gays are driven underground and therefore denied medicines that can prolong their lives if they are HIV positive.

Post published in: Africa News

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