The 15-year prison sentences imposed this week on a gay Zambian couple are a shocking miscarriage of justice, African gay-rights activists declare. The U.S. ambassador to Zambia agreed, saying that the sentences harm the country’s international reputation and perpetuate discrimination.
Pan-Africa ILGA, the African chapter of the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association, is appealing to Zambians, other Africans and international human rights defenders to intensify their opposition to Zambia’s harsh anti-gay laws.
The court action is an invasion of privacy, a violation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and “impairment of one’s right to practice their full identity as a human being,” Pan-Africa ILGA stated.
U.S. Ambassador Foote said that Zambia’s repression of its gay citizens contrasts with its leniency toward actual crimes:
“Government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution, political cadres can beat innocent citizens for expressing their opinions with no consequences, or poachers/traffickers can kill numerous elephants, barbarically chainsaw and sell their tusks, and face a maximum of only five years imprisonment in Zambia.”
This is the African activists’ statement, also issued today:
LGBTIQ+ Sentencing in Zambia
Pan Africa ILGA condemns the prosecution and sentencing of a gay couple arrested in Zambia. The arrest follows the invasion of privacy that occurred when the two parties were seen being intimate by a housekeeper. This in itself is a gross violation of privacy and by extension, an assault on the dignity of the parties.
We therefore strongly implore the concerned arms of the Zambian government to challenge this homophobic and dated trajectory of their laws and the application of such laws. This is because where people’s privacy has been invaded, it is clearly an assault on their fundamental rights to privacy as provided by extant laws and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and constitutes the impairment of one’s right to practice their full identity as a human being.
The harsh 15-year sentence meted out to the two consenting adults has shocked the world and is a blow to the continued global efforts to decriminalize same-sex consensual sexual conduct as well as to enact laws which protect LGBTIQ+ rights and liberties.
We join the international audience that is speaking against this miscarriage of justice. We call on Africans as well as the international human rights defenders, governments and relevant stakeholders to embolden the voice that decries the homophobic laws that are used to persecute queer Africans today.
This is the statement by U.S. Ambassador Daniel Foote:
UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR FOOTE SPEAKS OUT ON SEVERE LGBTI SENTENCING
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – I understand that Zambia is a Christian nation. I also understand that the Republic’s constitution was written to protect all citizens. To paraphrase the Bible: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”
I was personally horrified to read yesterday about the sentencing of two men, who had a consensual relationship, which hurt absolutely no one, to 15 YEARS imprisonment for “crimes against the order of nature.” Meanwhile, government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution, political cadres can beat innocent citizens for expressing their opinions with no consequences, or poachers/traffickers can kill numerous elephants, barbarically chainsaw and sell their tusks, and face a maximum of only five years imprisonment in Zambia.
Decisions like this oppressive sentencing do untold damage to Zambia’s international reputation by demonstrating that human rights in Zambia is not a universal guarantee. They perpetuate persecution against disenfranchised groups and minorities, such as people from other tribes or political affiliations, albinos, the disabled, our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) brothers and sisters, and anyone who is deemed “different.”
Gay individuals have historically comprised over 10 percent of the world’s population, back to the days of renowned Greek philosophers, and reportedly gay men, Plato and Aristotle. Gay individuals continue to make exceptional contributions to society in the United States and elsewhere, as politicians, artists, ambassadors, business leaders, philanthropists, and friends. *Perhaps, it’s time for Zambia to consider its outdated stance and obsolete legislation on how to treat the LGBTI community, and all others considered “different.”*
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