Human rights activists are pleading for moderation and restraint in Zambia as the country remains engulfed in a wave of homophobia that began with a news article claiming that four gay couples had tried to register themselves as married on March 30.
The outcry continued after the April 7 arrest of AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona after he spoke in favor of gay rights during a television show.
Police have asked Zambian citizens to report suspected homosexuals. Several human rights activists have gone into hiding to avoid arrest or worse.
Activists say they have seen a rapid increase in human rights violations against LGBTI persons, including acts of violence, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, blackmail and extortion.
Friends of Rainka said that a senior government official made a telephone call to one of the organization’s outreach officers, cautioning him that, if he spoke about homosexuality or commented about it on Facebook, the official would hunt him down. The outreach officer rebuffed him, but was shocked that the official had obtained his restricted telephone number.
Friends of Rainka said that a number of young LGBTI Zambians have been subjected to an “exorcism” ritual by parents or guardians in an attempt to rid them of the “demon of homosexuality.” Those who have resisted those rituals are now being told to move away for fear of police and or community reprisals.
The following news articles and opinion pieces from Zambia’s major newspapers, the Times of Zambia and the Zambia Daily Mail, have helped incite the anti-gay uproar:
- April 10 — Gays must be ‘clipped’ (Times of Zambia)
- April 13 — ‘Desist from being used by foreigners’ (Daily Mail)
- April 13 — Gays will be squeezed, says Chishimba Kambwili (Daily Mail)
- April 14 — Dealing with shame of homosexuality (Daily Mail)
- April 15 — Gay marriages threatening humanity’s existence (Daily Mail)
- April 16 — No to homos, yes to referendum – committee (Daily Mail)
- April 17 — Wynter seeks God’s aid over gays (Daily Mail)
- April 18 — Homosexuality should not be tolerated in Zambia (Times of Zambia)
- April 18 — Homosexuality: Sinful, abnormal (Times of Zambia)
In response, the human rights organization Friends of Rainka pleaded with Zambian officials and religious leaders to avoid making inflammatory statements that might lead to increased violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
Writing from the United States, Zambian native the Rev. Canon Dr. Kapya John Kaoma, called for civility and an end to arrests of gay-rights advocates. In an article titled “Why Not Gay Rights? Priest’s View,” he said:
Nobody is promoting homosexuality – we have gays in our midst.
They might be hiding but they are our brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, friends, workmates and fellow citizens.
They attend church, sing in our choirs, tithe and in some cases they are pastors and priests.
But they cry, fall in love, bleed and die too. Please let us live to disagree but never sacrifice our common humanity.
For further information:
- Speaking up for gay rights in Zambia (YouTube, 7:05 minutes)
- Eloquent rebuke to anti-gay Zambian clerics (76crimes.com)
- Zambia’s Anti-Gay Obsession Is Worsening Its HIV Epidemic (The Atlantic)
- Zambian activists seek halt to gay manhunt (76crimes.com)
- Zambia risk: Clerics with gays’ blood on their hands (76crimes.com)
- Zambian gays face ‘unprecedented’ harassment (76crimes.com)
- Zambia arrests activist after gay rights appeal on TV (76crimes.com)
- Zambia official seeks probe of same-sex brides, grooms (76crimes.com)
- 4 gay couples seek to wed in Zambia (76crimes.com)
- Zambia gay rights activist Paul Kasonkomona gets bail (BBC)
- Zambia: Gays deserve rights, regardless of theology (76crimes.com)
- Gay rights activist Paul Kasokomona appears before the Lusaka Magistrate Court (Lusaka Times)
Articles by the Rev. Canon Dr. Kapya John Kaoma include these: