Walking with a spring in her step, her left hand thrown around the waist of another woman, Ressina Chimuka, a student at Midlands State University in Gweru, walks around the campus. They draw the attention of onlookers. The lovers pretend to not notice the glaring, though it does make them uncomfortable
“Belonging to a sexual minority is not easy at university,” explains Chimuka. “We always attract attention, but just like any other couples, we are in love.” Ruth Ntandani, her lover, says that “men just put me off, but with Ressina, I’m very happy”.
At their university, their union is threatened by homophobia. Zimbabwe’s laws concerning homosexual relations are ambiguous, and government agencies are oppressive. “Several times, police came here to the campus to interrogate us on our sexuality. We were afraid of being arrested, so we told them we are just friends,” Chimuka reports.
In 2013, Zimbabwe adopted a constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage. It leaves the sexual minorities in a quandary, however, because it is silent on whether or not gay or lesbian love affairs are legal.
Zimbabwe’s new constitution guarantees the citizens rights such as equality and non-discrimination. Nonetheless, some heterosexual students openly express their disdain for LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual) people.
“There is no way we can condone females falling in love with females; neither can we tolerate the same with males. How do such affairs help in procreation instituted by God?” maintains Adious Mutarara, a student at Gweru Polytechnic College.
Homosexual students thus have reason to fear the police, college authorities and other students. Brutal attacks occur again and again. “If we report acts of violence to the police, they mock us, so we have chosen to suffer in silence,” says a gay student, who asks to remain anonymous.
According to ZimRights, a human rights group, there were approximately 320 reports of attacks on homosexual university students in 2013. Chesterfield Samba leads the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), a civil-society organisation. He says that “suspected gay students are being tracked down by their anti-gay colleagues in clubs, bars and even in their homes. They are openly harassed.”
The time gay students dread most is when the representative councils in tertiary institutions are elected: “Like our governing politicians, student leaders slam us for our sexuality to attract votes, promising their supporters to make our lives miserable,” says Chimuka.
by Jeffrey Moyo
Source – Development and Cooperation