Trial nearly over for opponent of Zambian anti-gay law

Paul Kasonkomona
Paul Kasonkomona

AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona is scheduled to learn on Feb. 20 whether a judge will dismiss charges that were brought against him after he appeared on Zambian TV last April and said that the country should repeal its law against same-sex activity because the law hampers the fight against AIDS.

He was arrested immediately after that appearance on local Muvi TV, and was faced with the charge that his appeal for reform was a form of “soliciting for immoral purposes in a public place.”

Kasonkomona and other activists say that anti-gay laws lead to increased levels of HIV and AIDS by making LGBT people fearful of acknowledging their sexual orientation, even to a doctor.

Kasonkomona was arrested April 7 and released on bail on April 11.  Court proceedings against him have in in process since May. On Feb. 20, a judge in Lusaka Magistrates Court is scheduled to make a ruling about whether the prosecution has presented an adequate case against him.  If not, Kasonkomona will be acquitted. If so, his defense team will proceed to present its case for acquittal.

“A ruling in favour of Paul would be a great victory for freedom of expression in general and LGBT rights in particular,” said Anneke Meerkotter of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

Kasonkomona’s arrest came during 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.

Soon afterwards, police called on Zambian citizens to report suspected homosexuals.  Several human rights activists went into hiding to avoid arrest.

Two men were arrested in May and another two in August on homosexuality-related charges.

Activists say that, since last spring, they have seen a rapid increase in human rights violations against LGBTI persons, including acts of violence, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, blackmail and extortion.

 

 

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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 info@76crimes.com.

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