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Gays in Zimbabwe harassed, US says

Associated Press / April 8, 2010

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HARARE, Zimbabwe — Gay Zimbabweans face widespread harassment, the US Department of State said in a discussion of its annual human rights report in Zimbabwe.

Gay men were forced into heterosexual acts and lesbian women were raped, sometimes by male relatives, to teach them to change their ways, said Amanda Porter, political officer at the US Embassy in Harare and compiler of the report.

“Some families reportedly subjected men and women to corrective rape and forced marriages to encourage heterosexual conduct,’’ she said Tuesday.

Homosexuals reported widespread discrimination in 2009, the year under review. But the report notes that the conservative southern African country has long frowned on homosexuality.

Hate speech by politicians against the nation’s small gay community fueled social pressures on families, Porter said. And crimes against human rights and sexual abuse against gays were rarely reported to police.

Same-sex acts are illegal in Zimbabwe and while there have been no reported prosecutions related to consensual homosexuality in recent years, the offense carries a penalty of up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $5,000.