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State-Sponsored Homophobia and Its
Consequences in Southern Africa

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I wanted to speak to my president face to face one day and tell him, I am here. I wanted to say to him: I am not a word, I am not those things you call me. I wanted to say to him: I am more than a name.

-Francis Yabe Chisambisha, Zambian activist, interviewed in 2001.

Human Rights Watch and
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Copyright © 2003 by Human Rights Watch.
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America

ISBN: 1-56432-286-6
Library of Congress Control Number: 2003102060



Glossary of Key Terms 
I. Introduction

II. The Spread of Homophobic Rhetoric in Southern Africa

III. The Hand of the State: Abuse and Discrimination by State Actors

IV. "Nowhere is Really Safe": Violence and Harassment by Non-State Actors

V. Realizing Rights: The Challenge of South Africa

VI. Conclusion




This report was written by Scott Long, consultant to Human Rights Watch and former program director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. A. Widney Brown, deputy program director of Human Rights Watch, and Gail Cooper, consultant to Human Rights Watch, contributed substantial portions to the text. For Human Rights Watch, the report was edited by Ian Gorvin, program consultant; Bronwen Manby, deputy director of the Africa Division; and Dinah PoKempner, general counsel. For IGLHRC, it was reviewed by Sydney Levy, former director of communications.

The report is based on research conducted between 1998 and 2002. Scott Long carried out a mission to Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe for five weeks in November-December, 1998 and conducted thirty-one interviews which laid the groundwork for future documentation. Scott Long and Widney Brown returned to South Africa in October-November 1999 for two weeks, for a regional workshop for LGBT activists, during which they helped formulate the conceptual outlines of this report in cooperation with activists. Scott Long returned to Zambia and Zimbabwe for five weeks in July-August 2000, and conducted nineteen interviews in Zambia and thirty-nine interviews in Zimbabwe, as well as an additional five interviews in South Africa. Scott Long returned to South Africa for two weeks in November 2001 and conducted nineteen interviews in Johannesburg and Soweto. Kagendo, Africa/Southwest Asia program officer for IGLHRC, visited Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa in November-December 2001, and in five weeks conducted eight interviews.

For Human Rights Watch, Widney Brown and Gail Cooper conducted a mission to South Africa and Namibia in July-August 2001. In South Africa, Widney Brown interviewed thirty-one people, mostly in Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces. Gail Cooper interviewed an additional forty people in South Africa, mostly in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape provinces. Widney Brown continued to Namibia, and conducted thirteen interviews in Windhoek and surrounding townships.
Human Rights Watch wishes to thank many persons and institutions who assisted this research during four years of work on the project. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provided generous funding to support this project from its inception. Human Rights Watch also expresses its gratitude to the David Geffen Foundation; the Gill Foundation; James C. Hormel and Timothy C. Wu; Keith Recker; and the Snowdon Foundation, for their ongoing support of its work on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people's rights.

Julie Dorf, former executive director of IGLHRC, helped conceive and shape this project from the beginning. Rona Peligal of Human Rights Watch, and Leslie Minot, Octavia Morgan, and Meredith Wood of IGLHRC, all played important roles in articulating the importance of the project and obtaining the support of funders.

Matthew V. Jones, intern at Human Rights Watch, provided important research assistance for this report. Ali Arain, program associate at IGLHRC, transcribed numerous interviews. Jonathan Horowitz and Patrick Minges oversaw production and publication.

In Botswana, Rodgers Bande of LEGABIBO provided invaluable help in our research; so did Joe and Mike of the same organization, as well as the staff of Ditshwanelo, including Alice Mogwe, and Father Richard Chance of the Anglican Church.

In Namibia, we received steady help and guidance from The Rainbow Project and Ian Swartz; Sister Namibia, particularly Elizabeth Khaxas and Liz Frank; Clement Daniels and Norman Tjombe of the Legal Action Center; and the National Society for Human Rights and Phil ya Nangoloh. Gwen Lister and other staff of the Namibian also provided generous assistance over time.

In South Africa, we wish to acknowledge with particular gratitude the support and assistance of Midi Achmat and Zackie Achmat; Jonathan Berger; Justice Edwin Cameron; Beverly Ditsie; Mazibuko Jara; Jonathan Klaaren; Douglas Torr; the Durban Gay and Lesbian Community Health Centre, especially Nonhlahla Mkhize and Vasu Reddy; the Gay and Lesbian Equality Project in Johannesburg, particularly Wendy Isaack, Evert Knoesen, and Carrie Shelver; the Masimanyane Women's Center, East London, and Lesley Ann Foster; the National Association of People With AIDS in Germistown, especially Thanduxulo Doro; OUT Pretoria and Dawie Nel; OUT Mamelodi; and the Township AIDS Project in Soweto, and in particular Thulani Mhologo.

In Zambia we owe thanks to Francis Chisambisha; Larry McGill; "Charles Phiri"; Scholastica Phiri; Muleya Mwananyanda of AfroNet; and Gershom Musonda and Alfred Zulu of the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT). Sydney Malupande also provided invaluable legal expertise.

Our work in Zimbabwe would have been impossible without the extraordinary openness and generosity of the staff and volunteers at Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), who allowed Scott Long to work from their offices for several weeks and shared extensive time and crucial information. Keith Goddard, Peter Joaneti, Chesterfield Samba, and Romeo Tshuma were particularly helpful in making available their expertise and effort. Derek Matyszak of the University of Zimbabwe also offered important assistance, as did Dominic S., and Chipo "Tina" Machida. Oliver Phillips provided support, context, and contacts.

Others who assisted with this project cannot be named, for reasons of safety. Still others have not survived to see it achieve fruition. Two people whose work inspired many in Zimbabwe, Poliyana Mangwiro and Carlos Mpofu, died before this report was completed. Poliyana, who died in 2001, was a firm support to lesbians and people living with HIV in her country, and a powerful advocate on their behalf; her voice, with a calm confidence which confuted others' anger, had carried the urgency of their needs to an international audience. Carlos, who died in 2002, lived the disappointment, the hope, and the loneliness of youth with rapid intensity; his death did not extinguish his will to accomplish change, but seemed to seal and preserve it, an inheritance for others. We dedicate this report to them: and to those who will inherit.


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