LGBT rights activists are looking forward apprehensively to the end of the trial of two young Zambian men who have been imprisoned for more than a year on homosexuality charges.
The outcome of the trial, scheduled to end May 30, not only will determine the future of defendants Philip Mubiana and James Mwape, it may also set a precedent that will affect LGBT people throughout Zambia.
Zambian law provides for prison sentences of 15 years to life for sexual intercourse “against the order of nature,” which is generally taken to mean same-sex intercourse. Until last year, arrests related to that law had been rare.
Mubiana and 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 inform on alleged homosexuals. The men’s repeated applications for bail have been rejected.
If Mubiana is acquitted, he plans to resume work as a hairdresser, an occupation at which he previously earned money to support his younger sister and other siblings, according to an activist in the anti-AIDS, pro-human-rights group Friends of Rainka. One of his sisters died last month; Mubiana was denied his request for a pass to attend her funeral.
If Mwape is acquitted, he plans to work once again as a bricklayer, which helps him support his sick mother, a nephew and a younger brother, who depends on him to pay for his education.
His family has suffered without his support for the past year, the activist said.
If they are released, neither man is likely to return to Kapiri Mposhi, where their troubles began.
Human rights organizations have been providing legal services and food to Mubiana and Mwape.
“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?” Juliet Mphande, executive director of Friends of Rainka, said earlier. “It’s time for all right-thinking Zambians to help curb this oppression of minorities.”
In the six months after the men’s arrest, Friends of Rainka tallied 43 LGBT-related violations of people’s rights. At least two other suspected same-sex couples have been arrested; at least one couple is also on trial.
This blog’s previous articles about the trial:
- Zambia report: Police arrest married gay couple (May 6, 2013)
- Zambia: 2nd arrest in 2 days for gay couple (May 7, 2013)
- Amnesty Int’l demands freedom for Zambian gay couple (May 8, 2013)
- Jailed gay pair in Zambia abused; at risk of rape, disease (May 9, 2013)
- Gay in Zambia: 6th week in jail for 2 awaiting trial (June 5, 2013)
- Zambian pair’s sentence could be 14 years for gay sex (June 10, 2013)
- Zambia: Sister and police testify against gay pair (June 11, 2013)
- On the scene in Zambian courtroom in anti-gay case (June 11, 2013)
- Zambia: Setback for prosecution in gay trial (June 24, 2013)
- 4th month in jail for gay couple facing Zambia trial delays (July 18, 2013)
- 5 months in Zambian jail as gay trial falters; no eyewitnesses (Aug. 30, 2013)
- Amnesty to Zambia: Release 2 men facing gay sex charges (Sept. 11, 2013)
- Justice delayed, justice denied for 2 in Zambian gay trial (Sept. 17, 2013)
- No bail, no trial; 5+ months in Zambian prison on gay charges (Oct. 19, 2013)
- ‘Our lives are in danger’ – new threats to Zambian activists (Oct. 24, 2013)
- In Zambia, ‘trial by ambush’ in anti-gay case (Oct. 28, 2013)
- No bail; 6 months in Zambian prison on gay charges (Nov. 9, 2013)
- 8 months in Zambian prison on gay charges; no bail (Jan. 23, 2014)
- 9 months in Zambian prison on gay charges; no bail (Jan. 30, 2014)
- Zambia’s growing intolerance towards LGBTI persons (Jan. 31, 2014)
- 10 months in Zambian prison on gay charges; no bail (March 4, 2014)
- Zambia: Police raid suspected gays without warrants (76crimes.com)
- Zambia LGBTs seek liberties of ‘every other citizen’ (76crimes.com)
- 43 anti-LGBT violations in Zambia; ‘accident waiting to happen’ (76crimes.com)
- Zambian First Lady seeks dialog; media prefer gay-bashing (76crimes.com)
- Zambian advocate rebukes anti-gay clerics (76crimes.com)
- Zambia’s growing intolerance towards LGBTI persons (76crimes.com)
- Zambian gays face ‘unprecedented’ harassment (76crimes.com)
- Zambia risk: Clerics with gays’ blood on their hands (76crimes.com)
- Zambian activists seek halt to gay manhunt (76crimes.com)
- Justice minister wants no justice for Zambian gays (76crimes.com)
- Report: Two more arrests in Zambia for gay sex (76crimes.com)
- Zambia arrests activist after gay rights appeal on TV (76crimes.com)
- Zambian activist must stand trial for opposing anti-gay law (76crimes.com)
Selection of others’ articles about homophobia in Zambia:
- Feb. 29, 2012: AllAfrica.com: Zambia: Ban’s Comments On Gay Rights Spark Bitter Debate
- March 1, 2012, Gay Star News: Zambians outraged over UN gay rights call
- April 5, 2013, Lusaka Voice: Homosexuals attempting to register their marriage should be arrested: Edgar Lungu
- March 24, 2013, Daily Mail: No same sex marriage in Zambia
- April, 7, 2013, Daily Mail: Cage the gays!
- April 9, 2013, O-blog-dee: Zambian police hunting homosexuals and arrest HIV/AIDS activist
- April 23, 2013, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa: Sowing poisonous seeds in Zambia
- April 23, 2013, Jonathan Turley blog: Wynter of Discontent: Justice Minister Declares “No Room For Gays” In Zambia
- May 21, 2013, Zambia Reports: Go to hell, Edgar Lungu tells gay rights activists
- July 12, 2013, Pink News: Gay man faces death threats in Zambia after UK civil partnership
- June 28, 2013, City Press (South Africa): Obama brings gay rights cause to Africa
- July 2, 2013, Lusaka Times: Obama’s homosexuality call is a non-starter in Zambia: Fr. Chiti