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State-sponsored homophobia in Southern Africa.

Many leaders in southern Africa have singled out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as scapegoats for their countries' problems, according to Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). The two international human rights monitoring organisations have released a new booklength report, More Than a Name: State-Sponsored Homophobia and its Consequences in Southern Africa. The 298-page report documents pervasive harassment and violence against sexual minorities in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. "Lesbian, gay, bisexual, anc transgender people have been vilifier by presidents and political leaders which has led to a culture of intolerance," said Paula Ettelbrick, executive director of IGLHRC.

"These attacks are just the first ster in creating a climate in which all right,, are at risk." The report documents verbal attacks, police harassment, official crackdowns, and community violence aimed at lesbian, gay, bisexual anc transgender people. Victims have beer assaulted, imprisoned, expelled from schools, fired from jobs, denied access to medical care, evicted from their homes, and driven into exile or, in some cases, to suicide. "When Southern African political leaders like President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe make speeches saying that gays and lesbians are 'worse than dogs and pigs,' it should be no surprise that violent attacks follow," said Scott Long of Human Rights Watch, co-author of the report.

The report also examines South Africa, which in 1996, newly freed from apartheid, became the first country in the world to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution.

Based on interviews with numerous individuals and activists, the report concludes that the equality guaranteed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people is fragile, and even endangered by the silence and foot-dragging of political leaders in South Africa. Human Rights Watch and IGLHRC called on the governments of all five countries to refrain from promoting intolerance and from inciting discrimination and abuse. Other recommendations include:

* repealing laws, including sodomy laws, which violate human rights including rights to privacy and freedom of expression;

* enacting positive protections against discrimination;

* publicising and promoting awareness of rights protections and how to use them and

* creating mechanisms to address discrimination and abuse of lesbian. gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The report was launched in Namibia on 19 May at a well-attended event in Windhoek.

Source: IGLHRC
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Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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