One of the world’s most virulently anti-LGBTQ+ figures has died.
Robert Mugabe, the former dictator of Zimbabwe, has reportedly passed away at the age of 95 at a hospital in Singapore, where he had been receiving treatment for the past five months. Mugabe was deposed in 2017 after holding power for 37 years: first as the prime minister, then as president.
Although he planned to cling to his office until death, claiming that only God had the authority to remove him, Mugabe was ousted in a military coup.
Mugabe will not be missed by Zimbabwe’s LGBTQ+ community. The virulently homophobic leader has claimed over the years that same-sex attractions are the result of “madness” and “insanity,” that “God destroyed the Earth” because of marriage equality, that LGBTQ+ people are “worse than pigs and dogs” and “inhuman,” and that anyone accused of homosexuality should “rot in jail.”
As president, Mugabe also fought to block any advances in LGBTQ+ rights in Africa. In 2006, Zimbabwe passed an anti-sodomy law banning any “act involving contact between two males that would be regarded by a reasonable person as an indecent act.”
In effect, the law banned almost any expression of intimacy between people of the same sex. Even being caught hugging or kissing could result in a sentence of up to three years behind bars. While Zimbabwe does not mandate the death penalty for homosexuality, Mugabe has called for LGBTQ+ people to be beheaded.
Zimbabwe’s Gay and Lesbian Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) claimed his comments had “created a climate of intolerance, fear, coercion, intimidation and acts of vengeance directed at gays and lesbians” in a 2013 complaint against Mugabe, blaming him for an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes. The advocacy group was reportedly attacked in 2014 when a group of men targeted its end-of-the-year celebration.
Mugabe’s death was commemorated on Friday by Zimbabwe’s current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who called him an “an icon of liberation” in a tweet. He expressed “utmost sadness” at his predecessor’s passing.