The Church: A Symbol of Oppression?

Southwark+Cathedral+Hosts+Prayer+Vigil+Zimbabwe+JLXQJjGuexylOver sixty percent of Zimbabwe’s population are Christians. However, not all churches are supportive of homosexuality and endorse the Zimbabwe constitution that criminalizes same sex marriage yet disallows discrimination. Meanwhile several politicians make reckless denunciations of homosexuals whilst others quietly indulge in homosexual acts themselves.
‘I am gay and I am catholic and I can not say it out because of fear of victimization. I realized that I was gay when I was 16. I was born like this and I know many of my friends who are gay. I can not go public because our society and church are against it but it is not my choice because I was born gay,’ said Tinarwo Mangwiro (not his real name) as he begged this reporter not to publish his name.

Tinarwo is not the only Christian who suffers discrimination and persecution on the basis of sexual identity and orientation in Zimbabwe’s predominantly Christian population.

It is possible that there are many Christian LGBTI people who live in slavery and bondage because of fear. They are not free and they are suppressed. Whilst certain churches might be tolerant and supportive of the human nature of homosexuality, the Zimbabwean legislative and political environment seems to be a major obstacle to over 60 percent of the Zimbabwean Christian population.
Though section 23(2) of the Zimbabwean constitution disallows discrimination but section 78(3) of the same constitution criminalizes same sex marriage: ‘People of the same sex are prohibited from marrying each other,’ reads part of the Act. Freedom of worship can easily be taken away if it is proved beyond any reasonable doubt that a particular church supports gay marriage. Section 78(3) could be used to justify closure of a particular church.

Considering the high level of poverty due to years of economic decay in Zimbabwe coupled with misrule and plunder by the elite, church leaders would not risk living in poverty merely because they stand for a minority gay group. Churches in Zimbabwe have become sources of income for many hence leaders have sacrificed principles for money. Very strong and bold leaders have however stood for the minority, otherwise the rest have been corrupted. They have viewed homosexuality as Satanism.

However Barnabas Muchanyerei,a Christian, lawyer and founding member of Godly Zimbabwe Project warns against misinterpreting Section 78(3) Zimbabwean constitution, claiming that the Act does not necessarily prohibit same sex marriage but that same sex partners can not register their relationships under the Marriage Act chapter 5;11 or the Africa Customary Marriages Act chapter 5;07. According to Muchayerei people of the same sex can marry under such arrangements as civil union and civil partnership among others.


Whilst there has been significant improvement in some religious circles towards Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersexual (LGBTI) people, public attitude towards this vulnerable group is largely negative and intolerant. Homosexuality has remained a highly controversial and scary subject for the practice is considered an import, taboo, ungodly and an abomination by Zimbabwe’s largely Christian community.

Traditional African beliefs often stereotype homosexuality as the work of juju/muti which is practiced for personal enrichment and power. According to Inyanga Masuku a Bulawayo based traditional healer, homosexuality is done mostly by those who want to attain political power or seek riches.
‘Lokhu kwenjwaayekile esintwini sethu ikakhulu ebantwini abadinga inotho lokubusa,’ (Such practices are common in our culture often practiced by fortune seekers and those who want to rule) said Masuku in the local Ndebele language.
Could it be the reason why a number of high ranking government officials and business personalities have been implicated in homosexual scandals?

Continue reading on  Pambazuka News.
Written by: Danmore Chuma4/2/2014
Photo Credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images Europe

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