Zimbabwe’s Government Bans Scholarships For LGBTIQ+ Students

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The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ+) student community in Zimbabwe are living in fear after the government threatened organisations offering scholarships to such students with “appropriate measures to enforce national laws and to protect and defend national values” – a development that activists believe may affect the access to higher education of this group.

Zimbabwe has outlawed same-sex relations under “sodomy” and “indecent acts” legislation.

A student who has been benefitting from a scholarship scheme for LGBTIQ+ individuals told University World News the financial assistance has kept them “in lectures” and this could change if this type of support is withdrawn.

“Society and some of our families don’t accept us. Some of us have learnt to live independently [thanks] to this scholarship. It has protected us from discrimination. I think to cushion us, if the government is opposed to us being educated in this country, we could benefit from scholarships that take us outside the country,” said the student.

“When it comes to scholarships, it is not only about sexual orientation. Every student is affected by the economic situation. The government is even failing to come up with a proper scheme to cover all deserving students,” said the student.

Many of the students who are part of the LGBTIQ+ community and who were approached for comment were too fearful to speak to University World News following the government’s announcement.

The government’s statement

On 15 February, Constantino Chiwenga, the country’s vice-president, a feared former general who played a key role in toppling long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in November 2017, said in a statement: “The Government of Zimbabwe strongly and firmly rejects and denounces as unlawful, un-Christian, anti-Zimbabwean and un-African insidious attempts by foreign interests to entice, lure and recruit Zimbabwe’s less privileged but able students into Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activities and malpractices through offers of educational scholarships.”

“Zimbabwe has legislated against all such deviances, making any offers predicated on the same aberrations both unlawful and criminal, and a grave and gross affront on our national values and ethos as a Christian nation,” the statement continues.

In his statement, Chiwenga said young Zimbabweans who qualify for enrolment into tertiary institutions in the country or other countries should approach government departments tasked to give grants and scholarship support to deserving cases.

He said students should never be tempted to “trade or sell their souls for such abominable and devilish offers.

“Our schools and institutions of higher learning will not entertain applicants, let alone enrol persons associated with such alien, anti-life, un-African and un-Christian values which are being promoted and cultivated by, as well as practised in decadent societies with whom we share no moral or cultural affinities.”

Scholarship givers

Chiwenga did not mention who was offering the scholarships, but in recent years, GALZ, an association of LGBTIQ+ people in Zimbabwe, has been sponsoring deserving students at state-run institutions of higher education.

In a previous scholarship call, GALZ said LGBTIQ+ students were facing challenges with fees and encouraged those who had dropped out on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but would like to continue with their studies, to apply.

It said the scholarship programme was created to provide financial support to LGBTIQ+ individuals between 18 and 35 years of age who are pursuing university degrees in the fields of democracy, governance, justice, human rights and conflict resolution studies.

Funds were available for educational-related expenses towards degree studies at any Zimbabwean state university.

“The scholarship is intended to empower LGBTIQ+ learners to serve and contribute powerfully and meaningfully to the realisation of rights for all, including persons of a diverse sexual and gender identity and expression in Zimbabwe and beyond,” it stated.

An LGBTIQ+ activist who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity said to University World News that Chiwenga’s statement is aimed at diverting the attention of citizens from everyday problems in the country.

“I think Zimbabwe right now is at a critical point where we are not yet inclusive. The moment that we talk about this more, people will turn away from the issue of ‘there is no money, there are no jobs’ and they will start targeting the community,” said the activist.

UWN

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