Picture your perfect date. What does it involve? Walking under the stars hand in hand, sitting down at your favourite restaurant and staring lovingly into their eyes? Not your scene? Maybe something more adventurous; hiking through the mountains, white water rafting and at the end collapsing happily into their arms? Or perhaps it’s just something as simple as ordering pizza to the home you share and having a movie night?
I am sure you could come up with a million perfect ways to spend time with the person you love. I am also sure that ‘not getting arrested and beaten for holding hands’ is not on that list. Sadly, for certain individuals around the world including those living in the two countries I have spent the majority of my life in, Zimbabwe and Zambia, being able to hold hands and love each other without fearing for their lives is more than they could ever hope for. Why you might ask, are these people at so much risk for something so simple? Well, my dear Watson, it’s (not really) elementary; they committed the crime of being attracted to someone of the same sex.
After coming across a book stand at a local fair that was promoting acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community in Zimbabwe, the ex-president Robert Gabriel Mugabe stated “What we are being persuaded to accept is sub-animal behavior and we will never allow it here. If you see people parading themselves as Lesbians and Gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police!” and continued throughout his reign to persecute LGBTQI+ individuals and in particular homosexual men. He also actively encouraged Zimbabwean citizens to attack and reject anyone who holds hands with, hugs or kisses individuals of the same sex.
In Zambia it is much the same story, anyone found to be homosexual, bisexual or transgender will be arrested, persecuted, and shamed. These laws were introduced in the early 20th century by the Colonial rulers and have by now cultivated an entire mentality of hatred against the LGBTQI+ community as well as a perception of queerness being linked to paedophilia and satanic practices. In fact, just over 2 years ago a previously well-known and highly respected teacher and mentor in one of Zimbabwe’s top schools was forced out of his position after he was outed as Gay, with many parents claiming that he was a threat to their children. This mentality is all too prevalent, and it is one that I have personally witnessed and experienced.
But why, sitting here in Germany, should any of this be of our concern? The answer to that lies in a question – What if it was you? What if you couldn’t show your love for the person who lights up your life without risking your life? Would you want people to fight for you?
I am absolutely certain that the answer is yes. As someone who has faced this as her reality, I am begging you to care. You might not feel like you can do much, but you can be the voice for those who have no voice. You can spread awareness and fight for those whose hands are tied behind their backs. You can fight for a world where loving someone is not a crime, and you can be the single grain that tips the scales towards rights and equality. No matter how small your contribution, it will make a difference, a million whispers will become a roar they cannot ignore and one day, hopefully soon, love will win.
FS Unity is an open community at Frankfurt School focused on raising awareness for LGBTQI+ issues and providing professional networking opportunities. FS Unity organizes campus events, career fair visits, and guest speeches, all of which aim to connect LGBTQI+ students and professionals.