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Zambia report: Police arrest married gay couple

Zambia's location in southern Africa
Zambia’s location in southern Africa

Human rights activists in Zambia are investigating the accuracy of a newspaper report that two allegedly gay men were arrested today by police in a small town north of the capital after neighbors reported that the pair were living as a married couple.

One activist raised suspicions that the incident in Kapiri Mposhi, about 100 miles north of Lusaka, was a government-scripted gimmick intended to distract people’s attention from serious problems that Zambia faces. Many LGBT people in Zambia have been in hiding since early April, when police asked the public to report homosexuals.

News of the incident was reported by the Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS), a service of the national Ministry of Information, Broadcasting Services and Tourism.

An article from ZANIS in today’s Lusaka Times said that the news service  confirmed the information with Standwell Lungu, commissioner of police for Zambia’s Central Province. The article said:

Mr. Lungu named the suspects as James Mwape and Philp Mubiana both aged 21 years and residents of Ndeke Compound.

He said the duo have since been charged for having sex against the order of nature contrary to the laws of Zambia.

The two were arrested over the weekend after a tip-off from concerned members of the public who alleged that the suspects were married.

The two have been living together as man and wife in Ndeke area.

Lungu claimed that “medical tests conducted on the suspects at Kapiri Mposhi District Hospital proved that they had been practicing sodomy.”

He said the two men were released on police bond with orders to return for court action on May 8.

Under Zambian law, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The South Africa Press Association reported about the Zambian incident:

Human rights activist Josab Changa said the authorities should stop arresting people practising same-sex marriages.

“Arresting them is an infringement on their human rights. Human rights should be respected irrespective of the perceived evil that somebody may do,” said Changa.

Last month, another rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, was arrested for appearing on live television calling for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in this deeply conservative southern African state.

Agence France-Presse reported that the couple was reported to police by relatives.

A previous report about four allegedly gay couples seeking to register as married on Easter weekend was also investigated by human rights activists. The LGBT rights group Friends of Rainka was unable to contact the supposed couples or confirm their identifies.

The group questioned whether the same-sex marriage incident also might actually be a “ploy employed by enemies of the community in a quest to distract the nation from discussing ongoing social, economic and political challenges.”

“They remain unknown to anyone else in the community,” the  group stated.

Friends of Rainka said police are intimidating, harassing and persecuting LGBT people in Zambia to an unprecedented degree, fueled by a call from traditional leaders to “cage gays” and an appeal from police to the public to “report homos.”

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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