AFRICA BY COUNTRY
Zimbabwean Transgender Activist, Ricky Nathanson, is Acquitted
by Jabu C. Pereira
5 February 2014
Ricky Nathanson (Board Member of Sexual Rights Centre) left, and Mojalifa Mokoele (Programme Manager at SRC) waiting for the case to be heard at the Bulawayo Magistrate Court.
Ricky Nathanson is a self-identified transwoman, she is an energetic businesswoman and a fierce activist against all forms of injustice in Zimbabwe.
In mid-January, while attending a meeting at a prominent hotel, a Zanu PF youth leader threatened Ricky and tried to extort money from her, claiming that he would have her arrested for “being somebody she is not.”
Ricky refused to be intimidated by such blackmail and soon thereafter she was arrested by the riot police of Bulawayo and charged for being a criminal nuisance. Ricky’s life as a transgender activist and businesswoman was subjected to public scrutiny as mainstream media exposed her to great vulnerabilities. She experienced systemic violence as she was forced by six Bulawayo police officers to pull down her pants while they laughed and humiliated her. She was subjected to gender verification medical examinations.
Today, Ricky with the support of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Sexual Rights Centre, appeared before Magistrate Ndebele. The state insisted on pursuing the case and charged Ricky for being a criminal nuisance. Magistrate Ndebele studied the law and requested that the prosecutor indicate how Ricky violated these laws. The criminal nuisance law is ordinarily used against people who commit misdemeanors such as skate-boarding where they are not supposed, or lighting up fire-crackers where it’s not permitted. The prosecutor could provide any evidence that could link Ricky to the charge. Judge Ndebele dismissed the case.
Ricky Nathanson for the past two weeks endured an attack on her person, her identity and her safety is now at risk. She suffered imprisonment and spent two nights in a prison cell becos of her gender identity. She was violated and live in fear of further imprisonment for a crime she never committed. The fabrication of her charge was a targeted attack on her identity as a transfeminist and activist.
The ongoing harassment by government agents and the police of Zimbabwe are clear indicators that LGBTIQ persons and outspoken human rights activists are not safe. Transgender persons now live in further fear of ongoing attacks, threats and blackmail in Zimbabwe.
The Sexual Rights Centre based in Bulawayo did an excellent job in securing Ricky’s safety and ensuring that her rights are protected. Redress is necessary and the systemic violations against Ricky must be the next challenge.