Saturday, March 27, 2010

NYT's Zimbabwe, Gays Story:
Gay Voices Omitted

An otherwise good piece of reporting in today's New York Times about gay concerns in Zimbabwe, which also mentions the problems gays face in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda, is missing one important element -- quotes from gay Africans.

There are plenty of brave gays in all of those countries, many of whom can be quoted using their real names at great personal risk to their security and safety, but the Times didn't find a single gay person affected by the political maneuverings to weigh in.

This sort of journalistic omission shouldn't be happening at any respectable newspaper, much less the Times. I expect the Grey Lady to include comments from any minority community being written up, be it women, the disabled, or gays.

Let's give the Times credit for carrying this story, a demerit for no gay voices in it, and hope that all future articles on gays in Africa feature a quote or two from gay people.

From today's article:

Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, said Thursday that any thought of putting gay rights in the nation’s new constitution was “madness,” and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who often disputes almost everything Mr. Mugabe says, this time seemed to agree.

Both men were appearing at a belated celebration of International Women’s Day in a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. [...]

Mr. Tsvangirai’s response, according to the news media, was, “Why should a man seek to have a relationship with another man when women make up 52 percent of the population?”

Mr. Mugabe’s comments were unsurprising. In the past he has described homosexuals as behaving “worse than pigs and dogs.” Gay bashing is one of his enduring themes. [...]

On Friday, the prime minister’s spokesman, James Maridadi, tried to play down the significance of the remarks. “Tsvangirai was speaking off the cuff in a very lighthearted way,” he said. [...]

Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, but gay rights organizations have been allowed to operate openly. In nearby Malawi, such groups can work only clandestinely. Two gay men there could face 14 years in prison after they were arrested for holding an engagement party in December.

Homophobia is the norm throughout Africa. In Uganda, a lawmaker has proposed harsh penalties for homosexuality, including the death penalty in some circumstances. In Kenya last month, the police broke up a gay wedding and arrested many of the guests; the police intervened, they said, to keep an irate mob from killing the participants. [...]

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