Zimbabwe's PM Morgan Tsvangirai in gay rights U-turn

Published: October 24, 2011

Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has reversed his position on gay rights, saying he now wants them enshrined in a new constitution.

He told the BBC that gay rights were a "human right" that conservative Zimbabweans should respect.

Last year, Mr Tsvangirai joined President Robert Mugabe in opposing homosexuality.

The fractious coalition formed by the two leaders has promised political reforms ahead of next year’s elections.

Zimbabwe is in the process of drafting a new constitution, which will be put to a referendum ahead of the elections.

Homosexual acts are currently illegal in Zimbabwe, as in most African countries where many people view homosexuality as un-Christian and un-African.
‘Pigs and dogs’

Mr Tsvangirai told BBC’s Newsnight programme that there was a "very strong cultural feeling" against homosexuality in Zimbabwe, but he would defend gay rights if he became president.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (L) shakes hands with Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai on 21 July 2008 President Robert Mugabe (L) and his Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (R) have a fractious relationship

"It’s a very controversial subject in my part of the world. My attitude is that I hope the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody," he told Newsnight’s Gavin Esler.

"To me, it’s a human right," he said.

Zimbabwe’s long-time leader Mr Mugabe – a practising Christian – once said gays were "worse than pigs and dogs", sparking international condemnation.

In March 2010, Mr Tsvangirai said gay rights was not up for discussion in Zimbabwe.

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