Gay teacher in Zimbabwe resigns after death threats

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A gay deputy headmaster of a boys’ school in Zimbabwe has resigned after death threats and pressure from parents.

Neal Hovelmeier, who worked at St John’s College in the capital, Harare, faced huge criticism and threats from parents after he revealed his sexual orientation to his students at an assembly Sept. 21.

Hovelmeier came out after a local newspaper threatened to write an article exposing his sexuality. He told CNN the paper “felt that did not sit well with my position in a boys’ school in a conservative country.”

After consulting with school authorities and his lawyer, Hovelmeier decided to address the issue of homophobia by using himself as an example. A communique was also sent home informing parents that the teacher had come out.

A parents’ meeting was held Monday to discuss the issue, but videos circulating on social media show the meeting ended in chaos. “When the report was released to parents, some parents felt strongly about this and did not approve,” Hovelmeier said.

Hovelmeier’s disclosure has sparked discussions about homosexuality in the country. Some commended his bravery for coming out while others are enraged by his decision do it in front of students.

“I’m curious how it will all play out considering that homosexuality is against the law in Zimbabwe. I think he is brave and has timed his announcement wisely just as the 2nd Republic is beginning. It allows us the opportunity to discuss this societal issue openly,” a Twitter user said.

Another Twitter user wrote, “I have many questions. Why tell 13-18 year olds all of a sudden after years on the job that he is gay? how come the parents weren’t told before the kids? isnt being gay illegal in #zimbabwe?”

CNN reached out to the school but has not received a response.

Same-sex marriage is banned in Zimbabwe, and gay sex is criminalized.

Former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe spoke against homosexuality at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, saying, “We equally reject attempts to prescribe new rights that contrary to our values, norms, traditions and beliefs. We are not gays.”

His successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, holds the same stance. “In our constitution it is banned — and it is my duty to obey my constitution,” he said.