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Zambian activist must stand trial for opposing anti-gay law

Paul Kasonkomona (Photo courtesy of Muvi TV)
Paul Kasonkomona (Photo courtesy of Muvi TV)

The Lusaka High Court in Zambia yesterday rejected an appeal by AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona, who is charged with “soliciting for immoral purposes” because he said on television last spring that Zambia should repeal its law against homosexual activity.

Such laws in 38 African countries and 76-plus countries worldwide obstruct the fight against HIV/AIDS because they categorize LGBT patients as criminals, who are unlikely to be welcomed at health clinics, while at the same time discouraging LGBT people from revealing their sexual behavior to medical professionals, even if those activities put them at risk of HIV infection.

An article in the Times of Zambia and in the Lusaka Voice reported that in a Sept. 12 ruling High Court Judge Anne Sharpe Phiri said the charge against Kasonkomona did not conflict with his constitutional rights. The article said that “Section 178 (g) of the Penal Code referred to a person being ‘idle and disorderly’ by soliciting for immoral purposes whereas Article 20 of the Constitution referred to the fundamental freedoms of expression.”

“The two issues are different,” she said.

She added:

“I therefore find that there was no Constitutional issue concerning the contravention of fundamental rights of the accused and there was no ground for the magistrate to refer the case. I therefore send this file back to the magistrate to deal with the matter.”

Click on the image for the blog's list of people in prison or awaiting trial for homosexuality.
Click on the image for the blog’s list of people in prison or awaiting trial for homosexuality.

She sent the case back to the lower court of Magistrate Lameck Ng’ambi for trial, which is scheduled for Oct. 16 and 17.

Zambian newspapers call Kasonkomoma a “gay rights activist” although he is actually an AIDS and human rights activist who once spoke out about an anti-gay law.

After his arrest in April, Kasonkomona said he was wrongfully detained and denied anti-retroviral drugs and medication to combat his tuberculosis, which endangered his life.

Zambia is in the midst of an anti-gay crackdown that started with an appeal by Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, who urged the public to report gay rights activists to police.  Two allegedly gay couples have since been arrested and are in prison pending legal action.

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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