Foreign gays and lesbians attending the International Conference on Aids and STI’s in Africa (ICASA) in Harare are under siege as government seized most of the their workshop material at Harare International Airport.
Suspected State security agents and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority on Sunday pulled down an exhibition stand mounted by the group to display and house its members and s#x workers at the conference venue.
However, after sustained massive protests they later displayed their wares.
Addressing a pre-conference workshop for key people, Kene Esom, the executive director of African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR), said the confiscation of most of their material by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) had disrupted the group’s programmes.
“The material is still held because the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is still conducting an assessment on them. The challenge is that we have attended many conferences of this nature and we have never been required to pay duty on such conference material, especially when you had bid to host the conference,” Esom said.
“As you can see, it has impacted on the quality of the pre-conference because we have agenda material and information material for interaction, which we haven’t gotten.” Gays and Lesbians’ Association in Zimbabwe director Chesterfield Samba in a statement said the government had always exhibited homophobic attitudes to these groups, hence it was a high risk population.
“S#x between men is criminalised in Zimbabwe, thus driving them underground and making them difficult to reach with HIV interventions,” he said.
NAC chief executive Tapiwa Magure said it was not fair to discriminate key populations because they would be left behind in terms of accessing vital information.
“I want to assure you that we will not discriminate anyone in this country. I want to make sure that information reaches out to everyone,” he said.