I recently just read one of the Sunday Mail features with great revulsion. The headline screamed: Gays and lesbians on the loose. Apart from thinking that there was nothing new in the tired story, I thought, what kind of a heading is that. Mention of ‘on the loose’, like how you’d describe animals that escaped from a zoo. The entire article lacked even the pretense of fairness and smacked of a desperate journalist who did not have a diary item for the week and went for the usual easy cheap shot – a jab at the ‘gays’ that always succeeds in generating a lot of interest and renewed albeit uncalled for attention to the minority group.
The article basically sought to establish how ready Zimbabweans were to accept homosexuals and also discuss the fact that this is a hotly contested issue at this point while the country waits – with bated breath – for a new constitution. The likes of Dr Vimbai Chivaura (UZ) and Takudzwa Gutu (MSU) – labeled as social commentator and social expert (whatever that is) respectively – were interviewed and gave such crass and unjustifiably homophobic remarks you’d wonder why the journalist chose university personnel as sources in the first place. According to Chivaura, homosexuality is unAfrican (yeah, we’ve heard that before) and there is “need for a law which completely wipes it out from the face of the Zimbabwean cultural landscape”.
The social expert on the other hand believes that the rise in the number of children involved in homosexuality is as a result of them being exposed to ‘rabidly pro-gay foreign media’. These experts not only speak of homosexuality like it’s an epidemic – they also believe it is a foreign import and despite the fact that we have whole communities of gay people; it is ‘unAfrican’.
Apart from the usual and to be expected comments from the ‘social experts’, the article is a demonstration of what constitutes bad journalism and is not only an embarrassment to the media fraternity, but goes against the grain of what we are trying to achieve as a nation – responsible, balanced media freedom that recognizes democracy and lives its tenets. You get the feeling that oh, here is a problem, but what is the solution? You also get the urge to say STOP, wait a minute, these are human beings we are talking about here right? Surely legislation is not going to stop homosexuals from feeling the way they do?
Whether Zimbabwe is ready or not to accept homosexuality is inconsequential to the minority rights question. One gentleman commented on the GALZ website that: “when dealing with issues concerning minority rights (homosexuals) it’s not about what the majority thinks, because it is rare for the majority to think of any good out of a minority…homosexuals are a permanent minority group and can never secure legislation in their favor. Their rights are better protected by the courts in its jurisprudence. If we really claim to have democracy, then these rights should be enshrined in the new constitution as democracy entails accepting differences amongst ourselves so that we are equal on the application of law…” I couldn’t agree more.
On the part of the media, I think nothing is more tragic – or more common than unjustifiable homophobia, especially coming from a national paper. Evidently, their unbalanced editorial policy with regards to homosexuality is caused by ignorance or avoidance of the real facts. A bit of tolerance will go a long way in avoiding the terrible effects of sexual prejudices which demean millions of people who permit themselves to become entangled in foolish argument over this subject, thereby poisoning their own minds and closing the door to reason.
Intolerance – according to Napoleon Hill – closes the book of Knowledge and writes on the cover, “Finis! I have learned it all!” Intolerance makes enemies of those who should be friends. It destroys opportunity and fills the mind with doubt, mistrust, prejudice and indeed litters the world with crass self- claimed social experts! We demand responsible, factual and balanced journalism if the fraternity is going to retain any semblance of respect.