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Zambian LGBT rights at risk in May 30 verdict

Jailed in Zambia for a year on homosexuality charges, defendants James Mwape and Philip Mubiana await the end of their ongoing trial.
Jailed in Zambia for a year on homosexuality charges, defendants James Mwape and Philip Mubiana await the end of their ongoing trial.

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.
Friends of Rainka logo
Friends of Rainka logo

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:

Related articles

Selection of others’ articles about homophobia in Zambia:

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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