By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
21 January 2014
Bulawayo-based transgender activist and socialite, Ricky Nathanson, has been charged with criminal nuisance for using a female toilet at a city hotel Thursday.
Nathanson was first ‘arrested’ at the Palace Hotel by ZANU PF youth leader Farai Mteliso who later handed him over to the police, NewsDay reported Monday.
The activist, who runs a modelling agency, spent the night in police cells before appearing in court Saturday, when a magistrate remanded out of custody.
Nathanson’s sexual status was classified as male following a medical examination at a city hospital, according to the NewsDay.
“She is more comfortable with her female sexual identity and that would explain why she would use the women’s toilet,” gay rights campaigner Chesterfield Samba told SW Radio Africa Tuesday.
Samba said rights group Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) were investigating the incident, which he said could easily have been dealt with at the hotel.
“We are still assessing how the citizen’s arrest was carried out and how Ricky was treated in custody. It would be wrong to treat Ricky as just another male person, because she is not,” Samba said.
Samba criticised the police’s heavy-handedness when dealing with members of the gay community, which he said was instigated by politicians in many cases.
“We are seeing this across Africa where politicians are leading the witch hunt against people who are either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Samba said.
“More recently there has been an increase in violence against the gay community in Nigeria following the passing into law of that country’s anti-gay law.
“Such laws only serve to discriminate and to fuel prejudice against gay people who are then targeted and attacked over their sexual orientation,” Samba added.
On Friday, gay rights group GALZ petitioned the Nigerian envoy to Zimbabwe over his government’s anti-gay stance.
“For us this is about standing in solidarity with our Nigerian counterparts who are likely to be harassed and to suffer displacement as a result of laws whose only purpose really is to create a climate of hysteria and homophobia,” Samba said.
The Nigerian embassy is yet to respond to the GALZ petition.
Earlier this month five senior ZANU PF youth league members, including a central committee member in Bulawayo, were allegedly in trouble for attending a party hosted by the city’s gays community at a city hotel.
The party was held on December 21st and, according to the Southern Eye newspaper, top ZANU PF officials flocked to the hotel straight from “a meeting to prepare for the unveiling of late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s statue.”
This did not go down well with some party youths who want their leaders suspended for defying President Robert Mugabe’s stance against gays and lesbians.
Mugabe is a homophobe who has said that gay people are worse than pigs and dogs and that they should be beheaded.
Samba said the citizen’s arrest of Nathanson’s could be an over-the-top reaction to the party incident, as party officials try to distance themselves from anyone perceived to be gay.