Robert Mugabe used the United Nations podium on Monday evening to attack homosexuality in front of the general assembly.
Deviating from his prepared remarks, the 91-year-old leader of Zimbabwe reportedly barked: “We are not gays!”
Mugabe made the comment as he criticized western nations’ “double standards” and attempts to “prescribe ‘new rights’ that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions and beliefs.”
Zimbabwe has one of the worst LGBT rights records on the African continent, with the country’s leader frequently demonising homosexuality. In 2013 he described homosexuals as “worse than pigs, goats and birds.”
In the same speech Zimbabwe’s leader — who has been in power since 1987 — claimed the UN human rights charter did not give states “the right to some to sit in judgement over others”.
“In that regard, we reject the politicization of this important issue and the application of double standards to victimize those who dare think and act independently of the self-anointed prefects of our time.”
“We equally reject attempts to prescribe “new rights” that are contrary to our values, norms, traditions, and beliefs. We are not gays! Cooperation and respect for each other will advance the cause of human rights worldwide. Confrontation, vilification, and double-standards will not.”
Mugabe’s remarks follow decades of state-sanction persecution against homosexuality, with male same-sex sexual activity remaining illegal within Zimbabwe.
A Pew survey in 2013 found the African continent — with the notable exception of South Africans — overwhelmingly intolerant of gay men and women.