'Our lives are in danger' — new threats to Zambian activists

Map of Zambia shows Kapiri Mposhi, where the men were arrested, and Kabwe, where they are currently jailed.
Map of Zambia shows Kapiri Mposhi and Lusaka, where recent anti-gay arrests have occurred.

Anti-gay forces in Zambia have launched a new wave of harassment of LGBT rights activists, including threatening phone calls, a criminal investigation, and a news article stating that activists traveling abroad will face criminal charges on their return to Zambia.

“Our lives are in danger,” said one activist who is still in the country. “I am now in hiding.”

“Someone has been stalking us,” he said. “This is another latest development of state-sponsored homophobia. We have been getting threatening phone calls and insulting messages since yesterday.”

Zambia has been in an uproar about homosexuality since last spring, triggered by an apparently false report that four gay couples tried to register for marriage in Lusaka.

Since then, four men in rural Kapiri Mposhi and in Lusaka have been arrested on homosexuality-related charges — two of whom were reported to police by a family member after a police spokesperson urged the public to report homosexuals to police.

Paul Kasonkomona
Paul Kasonkomona

In addition, AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona was charged with “soliciting for immoral purposes” because he said on television last spring that Zambia should repeal its law against homosexual activity.  The LGBT rights group Friends of Rainka has listed dozens of incidents of harassment and human rights violations against LGBT people in the past six month.

The recent threats come at a time when several LGBT rights activists from Zambia are in Sweden attending a Rainbow Leaders training program.

That trip was described in the Zambian news site Tumfweko as “Gay Zambian Leaders Meet In Sweden To Raise Money To Promote Gay Rights In Zambia.”

A group of well-known Zambian gay and lesbian leaders have travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, to attend a fundraising event called the Rainbow leadership program, where they hope to raise some funds from various donors from Southern Africa … to implement their projects and activities in Zambia of promoting gay rights in Zambia.  … According to sources, the group has thus far raised about $41,000.

An activist in Sweden disputed the Tumfweko account, saying that the program is a  leadership training program, not a fundraising event.

The article described a police investigation into accusations that mirror a common stereotype of homosexuality in Africa — that people enrage in it as a means of social and economic advancement and that gays “lure” people into homosexuality by offering them economic incentives.

The Tumfweko article stated that an 18-year-old boy in the Lusaka area “was lured into homosexual practices” after meeting “the leaders of the group who at the time had just returned from another fundraising trip from South Africa in 2012.” He said they gave him money for “fancy” clothes and promised him “that they would pay for his school fees, provide him with subsistence allowance to assist him support his struggling parents and above secure himself a brighter future.”

His accusations are being investigated by police at the Emmasdale police station, the article stated. The alleged perpetrators will be officially charged when they return to Zambia, the article said.

The Tumfweko account claimed that homosexuality is on the rise in Zambia as a result of “high poverty and unemployment rates.” It also cited two anti-gay leaders:

Edgar Lungu, Zambian minister of home affairs
Edgar Lungu, Zambian minister of home affairs

Earlier these year Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu was quoted as having stated “Those who are advocating for gay rights should go to hell! That is not an issue we will tolerate.” …

Meanwhile International Fellowship of Christian Churches (IFCC) President Simon Chihana has strongly condemned … the promotion of gay rights in Zambia when he said “Gay rights should not be allowed in Zambia. Such kind of acts are an abomination. The government should not even think of allowing such, no matter the pressure from the international community or whatsoever.”

About the Paul Kasonkomona case:

About Zambian sodomy cases:

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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