Gay rights in Africa: Judge in Zimbabwe gives bit of hope with ruling for human rights defender Martha Tholanah

March 4, 2014

With the Ugandan anti-gay law signed by President Museveni last week (in spite of the fascinating news that broke only afterwards that his own daughter came out publicly as lesbian opposing the law), attention on LGBTI rights in Africa has been mostly negative. The more reason to point to a small ‘victory’ in neighbouring Zimbabwe where a mostly independent judiciary had the courage to squash the charges against human rights defender Martha Tholanah of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ).

[The State had alleged that Martha Tholanah, with the knowledge that GALZ was not registered, “unlawfully took part in the management of the organisation by gathering its members and continued to carry out activities while engaging in gays and lesbians activities” in contravention of the Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) Act. This was in spite of the fact that a 14 January 2014 High Court ruling had stated that GALZ is not obliged to register in terms of the PVO as it is not a private voluntary organisation and is specifically exempted by the Act. GALZ is actually a registered Common Law Universitas. The ruling of 26 February 2014 also noted that the High Court had ordered high-ranking members of the police force and the Minister of Home Affairs to return property confiscated during a raid on the GALZ office in August 2012!]

See Front Line Defenders appeal, issued on 26 February 2014 <http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/25205> .

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