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Zimbabwe Constitutional Draft Excludes Language Protecting Gay Rights

Exclusion of gay rights language from the new constitution was a foregone conclusion for many observers given strong opposition to such protection by President Mugabe and ambivalence by Prime Minister Tsvangirai

Co-chairmen of the parliamentary select committee in charge of overhauling Zimbabwe's constitution before new elections said Wednesday that the interim draft constitution on its way to a referendum does not contain language protecting gay and lesbian rights.

Such an outcome was a foregone conclusion for many observers given strong opposition to such protection by President Robert Mugabe and signals from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change that neither he nor his party would champion the inclusion of such language in the new basic document.

Committee Co-Chairman Douglas Mwonzora - who is also spokesman for Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC formation - said that reports based on a public outreach process in 2010 indicated that a majority of Zimbabweans did not support including language in the new constitution to protect the rights of homosexuals.

Speaking for the smaller MDC formation led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, Edward Mkhosi confirmed that most Zimbabweans who took part in the outreach process had rejected the idea of recognizing gay rights in the new national constitution.

ZANU-PF select committee co-chairman Paul Mangwana could not be reached.

Mwonzora told VOA reporter Violet Gonda that his committee is currently discussing the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation. He noted that the interim draft has yet to be debated by an all-stakeholders conference before finalization.

"The voices against (homosexuality) were more than the voices for it," Mwonzora said.

"But the most important thing is whether people can be discriminated [against] on the basis of their sexual orientation and we agreed that we need to think very deeply about this and see whether we will not be condemning some people to death,” he said.

Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe Director Chesterfield Samba said that without protection under the constitution, the gay community could find itself facing a multitude of human rights issues with no legal recourse.

Meanwhile, state-controlled radio on Wednesday accused the three select committee co-chairmen of dragging their feet in the completion of their constitutional reform task, alleging that each receives $1,500 in allowances daily.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation said the three committee co-chairmen were treating the exercise as a “money-spinning venture.”

Mkhosi of the Ncube-led MDC called the accusations false and malicious.

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