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19 Feb, 2024 10:12

African nation threatens to ban gay scholarships

Zimbabwe’s government has warned that any such “un-African and unchristian” offers will be regarded as unlawful and criminal
African nation threatens to ban gay scholarships

Zimbabwe will not tolerate attempts by foreign agents to entice and recruit students into homosexual activities through educational scholarships, the government of the southern African nation has warned.

In a statement late Thursday, Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said any funding for LGBTQ people in the country’s schools would be illegal and a criminal offense.

The government’s declaration reportedly came in response to an online advertisement by Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), an association of LGBTQ people in the country, inviting applications for its ‘Munhu Munhu’ scholarship program. The scheme has been in place since 2018 and covers full tuition, accommodation, and other expenses for gay people aged 18 to 35 to pursue degrees in democracy, governance, justice, human rights, and conflict resolution at any Zimbabwean state university.

Denouncing the latest announcement, Chiwenga said the government “sees such scholarship offers” that attempt to mislead “Zimbabwe’s less privileged but able students” into homosexuality as a “direct challenge to its authority.”

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enroll persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African, and unchristian values,” he said. “Zimbabwe is a sovereign African state with definite laws and values which typify it, cutting it apart from other mores.”

The vice president added that Harare “will not hesitate to take appropriate measures to enforce national laws,” saying young people “should never be tempted to trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.”

On Friday, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum told the Associated Press that the government’s response to the GALZ scholarship scheme demonstrated that sexual and gender minorities are under threat in the former British colony.

“We are extremely concerned about the statement from the second-highest office in the land because it exhibits intolerance, especially taking into account that the advertisement opens young people to so many opportunities,” Wilbert Mandinde, the programs coordinator of the NGO, has said.

The landlocked country, which has been under US and EU-targeted sanctions for more than two decades over alleged human rights violations, bans same-sex sexual relations under its Criminal Law Act of 2006. The law carries a maximum one-year prison sentence and a fine for offenders.

Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who ruled for 37 years, had repeatedly described gay people as “worse than dogs and pigs” and unworthy of legal rights. The late Mugabe had accused Western leaders, including former US President Barack Obama, of attempting to force Africa to accept homosexuality.