Gay in Zambia: 6th week in jail for 2 awaiting trial

Philip Mubiana enters courtroom with his face covered. (Photo courtesy of Lukasa Times)
Philip Mubiana enters courtroom with his face covered. (Photo courtesy of Lukasa Times)

After a brief court hearing today, two young men accused of breaking the Zambian law against homosexual activity remain in prison awaiting trial, with the next court action in their case scheduled for June 10.

James Mwape, a bricklayer, and Philip Mubiana, a hairdresser, both age 21, were arrested in Kapiri Mposhi in rural Zambia on April 25, were released on May 2, and were re-arrested on May 4 after a hostile mob found them sharing a drink at a local bar.  They have been detained since then because police said the men might break the law again if they were released.

Each of them has been forced to undergo anal “swab tests” intended to determine whether any sexual penetration had occurred. Activists say the medical exams were inhuman and degrading treatment  that was performed without their consent and without their being formally informed of the ramifications of the exam.

Their supporters say the arrests were based on rumors that the men had gotten married, with no collaborative evidence to support the charges.

According to a report today in the Lusaka Times, their defense team decided to drop plans to pursue a constitutional challenge over the validity of the charges against them.  Instead, they asked that the trial be held promptly, since their clients would otherwise remain incarcerated during a lengthy constitutional challenge.

Magistrate John Mbuzi scheduled the trial for June 10 and 11.

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

For more information, read the full Lukasa Times article: “Lawyers back-peddle on homosexuality application case.”

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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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