Human Rights Watch mourns the death of Peter Joaneti, an activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, who died of an AIDS-related illness in Harare on February 15.

Peter was a longstanding and leading member of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). He campaigned against government restrictions on basic rights to expression and association, dignity and privacy—for LGBT people, and ultimately for all Zimbabweans.

He fought as well for the needs and voices of LGBT people to be represented in efforts at HIV prevention and care. He was one of the founders of Chengetanai (a Shona word meaning “those who take care of each other”), a group of “liberated queens” within GALZ who flouted gender norms in a patriarchal society with both courage and abandon. In Zimbabwe and abroad, he was known to many as “Naomi Campbell.” In the face of great prejudice and hatred, he proved that humor can be part of heroism too.

Peter provided both help and inspiration to Human Rights Watch while we
researched a 2003 report on homophobic violence in the region (More Than a Name: State-Sponsored Homophobia and its Consequences in Southern Africa, a joint project with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission). We extend our sympathies to his friends and family. He will be deeply missed.