Zambian gays face ‘unprecedented’ harassment

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

As the world focuses on the unjust incarceration of AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona, grassroots human rights defenders in Zambia are seeing a frightening increase in violations of LGBT people’s rights, the human rights organization Friends of RAINKA says.

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.”

Anti-LGBT politicians often claim, incorrectly, that homosexuality is a foreign import, which may be part of the reason why President Michael Sata is calling on the drafters of a national constitution to avoid foreign influences. He “urged delegates to the national constitution convention deliberating the draft constitution to desist from ‘importing’ foreign ideologies into the constitution. Mr Sata said delegates must also guard against some foreign interests and prevent those with “obnoxious” ideas from hijacking the constitution-making process.”

“We should not simply pander to foreign interests or seek to incorporate standards and principles which do not reflect our unique Zambian socio-political environment,” he said.

The President said this in a speech read for him by acting President Edgar Lungu during the official opening of the national constitution convention yesterday.

Kasonkomona, has been charged under section 178(g) of the Zambian Penal Code, Chapter 87 of the Laws of Zambia, for soliciting in a public place for an immoral purpose. This offense, derived from the English Vagrancy Act of 1898, was repealed in England in 1956 but remains in force in Zambia.

He has sued the state, charging that he is being detained illegally.

Taken together, these events have heightened fear amongst the LGBT community in Zambia. The apparent lack of respect for the laws of the nation by the police service and other government institutions has led to an unprecedented increase in human rights violations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender Zambians. This occurs both at the hands of the police and by the general public, who are taking matters in their own hands, violating the rights of LGBT people by persecuting them as an exercise of what they perceive as their “god-given rights” to a country without homosexuals.

Victims of these violations are unable to report incidents to the police because of the warranted fear of unlawful detention and torture, as is evidenced in the Kasonkomona case, in which the police are encouraged to act without regard for the rule of law.

Friends of RAINKA said:

“This continued discrimination and violations of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Zambians and human rights defenders in the name of the law, are reminiscent of the infamous laws that legalised discrimination in the past – the apartheid laws in South Africa, the anti- Jewish laws in Nazi Germany, and the slavery laws of eighteenth century Europe and Americas.

“The call made by President Sata to delegates of the national constitutional convention suggests that the current government will not advocate for an inclusive constitution that offers equal protection before the law for all people including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“What a travesty!

“If that is so, sexual minorities will continue to grapple with unfair discrimination and will remain at the mercy of those who take the law into their own hands.

“The battle for a tolerant Zambia is far from over.”

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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