LGBT in Zambia: ‘How many more lives will be ruined?’

Friends of Rainka logo
Friends of Rainka logo

In response to the latest court case against alleged homosexuals in Zambia, the leader of the Zambian human rights organization Friends of Rainka has called for an end to persecution of LGBT people.

Juliet Mphande, executive director of Friends of Rainka, said:

”The situation for LGBTI persons in Zambia becomes more urgent than ever. How many more lives will be ruined before Zambians realize that criminalization of  individuals  based on their real or perceived  sexual orientation is a violation of their fundamental human rights?

“How many more lives  before we acknowledge that Zambia has become a dangerous country for any person of  dissenting views or expression to live?

Juliet Mphande, executive director of Friends of Rainka. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Juliet Mphande, executive director of Friends of Rainka. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

“The arrest of innocent Zambians on account of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity will not give Zambians a new constitution. It’s time for all right-thinking Zambians to help curb this oppression of minorities. It’s a sad day when a nation uses its own citizens as cheap fodder for political gains. This impunity has to end.”

In Zambia’s latest homosexuality case, two men in Chisamba, in central Zambia just north of Lusaka, were arrested earlier this month and pleaded not guilty to homosexuality charges.

The trial of Jacob Botha, 36, a teacher, and Jackson Lungu, 22, a casual worker at Zesco, is scheduled to start April 16. Media reports claim that the men had been “living as husband and wife” for three years. Botha was released on bail.

In other ongoing cases, Philip Mubiana and James Mwape of rural Kapiri Mposhi have been in custody since May 6, 2013.  They were arrested after family members reported them to police in response to a nationwide appeal to Zambian citizens to report homosexuals. Their trial is scheduled to resume next month.  They repeated applications for bail have been rejected or deferred.

In both of these cases, if the defendants are convicted they would face prison sentences of 15 years to life.

Paul Kasonkomona
Paul Kasonkomona

In addition, the government of Zambia is appealing last month’s acquittal of AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona, who was put on trial  for “soliciting for immoral purposes in a public place” because he appealed on local television for the repeal of the Zambian law against homosexual activity.

Kasonkomona says that the law about same-sex relations encourages the spread of the HIV virus by creating barriers that prevent LGBT people from receiving AIDS-related health services.

Friends of Rainka says that dozens of LGBT people in Zambia have been victims of harassment, discrimination, beatings, and blackmail since the arrests of Kasonkomona, Mubiana and Mwape last spring.

In August, two other men were also arrested in Lusaka on homosexuality charges. The case did not go to trial and apparently has been dropped.

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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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