Zambian trans trial: I am innocent

A 27-year-old trans woman on trial on sodomy charges testified Oct. 14 that she is innocent and that the man who complained about her to police had   forced her to have sex with him.

Taxi driver Abraham Chilemu discusses the case against Hatch Bril outside the courthouse. (Photo courtesy of the Lusaka Times)
Taxi driver Abraham Chilemu discusses the case against Hatch Bril outside the courthouse. (Photo courtesy of the Lusaka Times)

Hatch Bril, a hairdresser in Mongu, western Zambia, could face from 15 years to life in prison, if convicted. Bril was arrested after being reported to police by taxi driver Abraham Chilemu, age 19, who said he had been deceived into sex.

After her testimony, the trial ended.  Magistrate Derrick Mate Chingumbe  announced that a decision on conviction or acquittal of Bril will be made Oct. 28.

During the trial, according to an account provided by a source who attended the Oct. 14 session, Bril testified that Chilemu and a male passenger, named George, picked her up and took her to a night club, where George gave her money to buy  drinks and told her to keep the change.

She then testified that they went to George’s house, where she and the taxi driver, Chilemu, remained in the car. George invited her into the house but she refused after Chilemu warned her that it would not be safe to go inside because so many men were there.

She told George that it was late and she had to go home. She left with Chilemu in his taxi but, on the way, he stopped and told her that he wanted to have sex with her. She refused and, when he insisted, she told him that she was a man who liked wearing women’s clothing.

Despite that, Chilemu forced himself on her, she testified.  Afterwards, he told her that he was taking her to see his family at his aunt’s home, because she had deceived him. There, she told the family her side of the story, but they wouldn’t listen.

Zambia's location in southern Africa
Zambia’s location in southern Africa

Bril asked to have her own family present, but Chilemu’s family refused. Instead, they undressed her and beat her up, she testified.

They then took her to the police, where she was again undressed and then  detained.

Chilemu told police that he had the sexual encounter with Bril at Chilemu’s home after he saw her dressed in female attire and “instantly fell in love.”

In Zambia, anyone who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” or “permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature” is liable to imprisonment for 15 years to life. Attempted sodomy is punishable by seven to 14 years in prison.

According to the Lusaka Times, Chilemu alleged that Bril enticed him “to have unnatural sex with him.”  Chilemu apparently was a willing participant in the encounter, but does not face criminal charges.

This article was revised Nov. 2, 2015, to correct the minimum prison sentence that could be imposed on Bril after conviction. It is 15 years, not seven years.

Related article
Previous coverage of LGBTI-related cases 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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