Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe ramped up his anti-gay rhetoric Thursday, saying same-sex relationships violate the rights of women by making impossible the union of men and women needed to bear children.
“When a man says he wants to get married to a man, we in Zimbabwe don’t accept it and in most Africa we don’t accept it. We can’t talk of women’s rights anymore once we go in that direction,” he told a women’s summit in Harare attended by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay.
Mugabe’s speech appeared directed at Pillay, whose remarks at the same conference earlier made reference to the criminalization of homosexuality in some countries.
The UN rights chief, in Zimbabwe to assess the nation’s human rights situation at the invitation of Harare, called on the leadership to ensure all rights, including women’s liberties are respected.
But Mr. Mugabe vowed Zimbabwe and Africa at large will never recognize same-sex marriage saying it leads to human "extinction."
Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe and Mugabe is on record as saying gay people are “worse than pigs and dogs.” His homophobic views seem to resonate with a lot of people in the country.
Deputy Women Affairs Minister Jessie Majome told VOA she was dismayed by Mugabe’s sentiments saying they were off the mark as the conference was called to discuss empowerment of women, human rights and gender equality.
“There are women from various diversities in Zimbabwe and also civil society representatives from different African countries who also represent lesbian women at this conference who are also articulating those issues,” said Majome.
Prime Minister Tsvangirai, also in attendance, said the rights of women should be promoted and protected, adding most women and girls in Africa were being exposed to HIV/AIDS because of poverty.
Zimbabwean gay rights activists are pushing for recognition under the new constitution – under drafting.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe - president of the Global Power Women Network Africa – said women’s rights should be respected.
She said the continent would lose generations if women decided not to fall pregnant in protest of violations of their rights.
The Global Power Women Network Africa summit, attended by hundreds of delegates from across the African continent, was held under the theme "Accelerating Action for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality in the area of HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights."
It is expected to come up with resolutions around issues affecting women and children.