Harare — For Zimbabwe’s gay community, voting season is a time of dread. As political temperatures rise ahead of expected elections next year, gays and lesbians are being targeted by police in an apparent strategy to win over voters.
On 11 August 2012, police raided a book launch at the headquarters of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), an NGO based in Harare that promotes the rights of sexual minorities. The police arrested 44 people, and although none were formally charged, the incident followed a familiar pattern of harassment, beatings and threats against people who openly identify as gay.
The group was released the next day, but not before being "profiled" – a term used by police to describe information gathering. Detainees’ names, addresses, places of work and even details about friends and family were recorded.
With this information, police have been pursuing these individuals as well as people close to them. "We are in for a protracted campaign of harassment; it is going to be a very rough time," Chesterfield Samba, director of GALZ, told IRIN. "People are being tracked down in clubs and bars, at their jobs and homes, because they are suspected of being gay."
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