The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) was founded in 1990 in order to advocate for the rights of LGBT people and to challenge homophobic legislation. It also quickly started to respond to the threat of HIV/AIDS at a time when there was almost complete denial of the existence of HIV in Zimbabwe by the State. GALZ has a nationwide membership and operates from offices in Harare and Bulawayo.
GALZ rose to prominence in 1995 when it tried to exhibit at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair which had as its theme that year ‘Human Rights and Justice’. In his opening speech at the Fair, President Mugabe issued the first in a series of vitriolic attacks on gay and lesbian people. He was later to refer to gays as ‘worse than dogs and pigs’.
The work of GALZ is divided into two broad areas: gender and health. The health department in particular spends much time focusing on issues relating to HIV/AIDS including counselling and access to affordable treatment. The Health Department is also responsible for the Buddy Groups in Harare and Bulawayo which visit members in their home areas and helps alleviate problems they may be facing especially around issues of HIV.
The work of the gender department focuses largely on organising activities and providing services of particular interest to women members. It is also prominent in national, regional and international LGBT networks.
GALZ is also active in providing legal support to its members and is a member of a number of important human rights coalitions including the Zimbabwe NGO Human Rights Forum and the Women’s Coalition.