Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises sex between men
Criminal Law Act 2006, Section 73 Sodomy

Section 73 of the Criminal Law Act 2006 criminalises all sexual acts between men with a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and the possibility of a fine.1



The US Department of State Human Rights Report states that there were no known cases of prosecutions of consensual same-sex sexual activity during the year. However, the police reportedly detained and held persons suspected of being gay for up to 48 hours before releasing them. LGBT advocacy groups also reported police used extortion and threats to intimidate persons based on their sexual orientation.

Statements by Public Figures


With the inauguration of Robert Mugabe’s replacement, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in November, LGBT activists are uncertain as to whether Mnangagwa’s Presidency will mark a departure from Mugabe’s deeply homophobic position. It is certainly the case that Mnangagwa led the delegation to the United Nations during Zimbabwe’s 2016 UPR cycle where he rejected recommendations on LGBT rights, saying: “With regards to areas that we felt we would not accept, it is issues of gays and homosexuality, which is unlawful in our country. We rejected all those. There are a few countries in Europe which recommended that we reconsider our position with regards to adults of the same sex marrying each other. That we have rejected.”

In October, then President Mugabe was appointed as a WHO goodwill ambassador, but this was rescinded only days later due to the fierce backlash. During the UK Parliamentary debate on global LGBT rights on 26 October, Nigel Evans MP remarked: “what were they thinking?… if one looks at the way he has treated LGBT+ issues in his own country, where the stigma of being gay means that many people are afraid to even get tested and are condemned to death because they’re not getting the treatment that they need.”


In September, then President Mugabe notably declared to the UN General Assembly: “We equally reject attempts to prescribe ‘new rights’ that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs. We are not gays!


While attending an event in the Netherlands on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Richman Rangwani, a Zanu-PF councillor and HIV campaigner in Mhondoro-Ngezi, told delegates that many Zimbabweans were opposed to homosexuality simply because they lacked knowledge about the issue: “If we have all this information in the community where I am coming from, things will be a lot different l can tell you.”

Gays have no human rights.

Former President Robert Mugabe

In May a magistrate’s court in Harare has reportedly denied bail to a councillor charged with sodomy stating that sodomy was a felony that “The Highest office in the land has denounced hence the accused could not be admitted to bail. The offense is very serious, and has even got condemnation from President Robert Mugabe…. at one stage the President said that a person involved in such an act is worse than pigs and dogs.”

Speaking at the annual Independence Day celebration in April in Harare, Zimbabwe’s then President Robert Mugabe stated: “…if there are any diplomats who will talk of any homosexuality, just tell me. We will kick them out of the country without any excuse. We won’t even listen.”

In March, former President Mugabe declared that “gays have no human rights.” It was further reported that Prosecutor General Johannes Tomana suggested that Zimbabwe’s laws were inadequate in “dealing with” gays and lesbians, and the leader of the United Family International Church, Emmanuel Makandiwa, described LGBT people as “mentally sick.”


Addressing a crowd of supporters in Mutare in July, then President Mugabe responded directly to pressure from President Obama on LGBT issues: “Then we have this American president, Obama, born of an African father, who is saying we will not give you aid if you don’t embrace homosexuality. We ask, was he born out of homosexuality? We need continuity in our race, and that comes from the woman, and no to homosexuality. John and John, no; Maria and Maria, no. They are worse than dogs and pigs. I keep pigs and the male pig knows the female one.”

They are worse than dogs and pigs.

Former President Robert Mugabe


Former President Mugabe, speaking to a group of young people at a community event in November, responded to indications from then Prime Minister David Cameron that British aid might be tied to Zimbabwe’s observance of LGBT rights: “It becomes worse and Satanic when you get a Prime Minister like Cameron saying countries that want British aid should accept homosexuality. To come with that diabolical suggestion to our people is a stupid offer.” He further added: “Do not get tempted into that (homosexuality). You are young people. We will punish you severely. It is condemned by nature. It is condemned by insects and that is why I have said they are worse than pigs and dogs.”

Persecution and Discrimination


The US Department of State 2016 Human Rights Report on Zimbabwe observed that “the police reportedly detained and held persons suspected of being gay for up to 48 hours before releasing them. LGBTI advocacy groups also reported police used extortion and threats to intimidate persons based on their sexual orientation.” It was also reported that “some families subjected their LGBTI members to “corrective” rape and forced marriages… Women in particular were subjected to rape by male family members.”


Human Rights Watch’s 2016 World Report observed that in 2015: “Authorities continued to violate rights of LGBT people. A Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission report published in July showed continued hostility and systematic discrimination by police and politicians against LGBT people, driving many underground.”

The US Department of State 2015 Human Rights Report on Zimbabwe reported that “members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), the primary organization dedicated to advancing the rights of LGBTI persons, experienced harassment and discrimination” including an incident in which “a group of intruders forced their way into the private year-end event of GALZ, attacking, robbing, and leaving 35 attendees injured.”

Raymond Sibanda successfully appealed against being fired from the civil service for “allegedly engaging in homosexual activities.” Reportedly, Labour Court President Justice Evangelista Kabasa determined that Mr. Sibanda’s appeal against his dismissal was valid as “no one should be dismissed from work on the basis of their sexual orientation.”


Human Rights Watch’s 2015 World Report noted that in 2014: “It was only after a lengthy court trial that the Harare Magistrates Court in February cleared Martha Tholanah, chairperson of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), a nongovernmental organization (NGO). She was charged with running an “unregistered” organization in contravention of article 6 of the Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) Act, which requires that all private voluntary organizations register with the PVO board. In March, police arrested two GALZ officials on charges of organizing a media training workshop without police clearance, in violation of POSA. These attacks on LGBT people, arbitrary arrests of LGBT activists by police, and the harassment by state agents of GALZ in previous years, continue to drive many LGBT people underground.”

GALZ continued to be subject to discrimination and legal action throughout 2014. In July, GALZ members reported going to the hospital with symptoms of sexually transmitted infections and then returning home without treatment because they were afraid of answering the questions of the nurses. In March, Tawanda Maguze and a GALZ activist, Natasha Dowell, were arrested and later released without charge while facilitating a workshop in Harare. In January, the High Court ruled that the 2012 raid on the offices of GALZ (see below) was unlawful.

In January, a board member of Sexual Rights Centre (SRC), a transgender woman, was arrested by police and subjected to a forced medical examination whilst detained.


In August police officers entered and occupied the offices of GALZ and confiscated documents, advocacy materials and computers. In the past decade, authorities have instigated numerous attacks on members of GALZ including arbitrary arrests, beatings, and intimidation. During the course of such raids, the police arrested GALZ members, as well as charging Martha Tholanah with running an unregistered organization.

Legislative News


In Zimbabwe’s second UPR cycle, 11 recommendations were made relating to sexual orientation and gender identity – including explicit recommendations to decriminalise from Uruguay (133.7), France (133.8), Spain (133.10), Canada (133.11) and Brazil (133.13). These were rejected by Zimbabwe.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child’s Concluding Observations on Zimbabwe reiterated its concern “about high levels of discrimination against certain groups of children, including… lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children and children affected or infected by HIV/AIDS.”


Zimbabwe approved a new Constitution, Article 78(3) of which provides that: “Persons of the same sex are prohibited from marrying each other.”


In Zimbabwe’s first UPR cycle, France made the following recommendation, which did not enjoy the support of Zimbabwe: “95.17. Ensure equality between men and women, including in parents’ rights and property’s rights as well as decriminalise as soon as possible sexual relations between consent adults of same sex and repeal the 2006 law.”

1. Criminal Law Act 2006, Section 73 Sodomy

“(1) Any male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to a fine up to or exceeding level fourteen or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both.” Full text.

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