Three men are currently awaiting trial, facing up to fourteen years in prison, for violating Zambia’s anti-gay laws. But in the midst of hate emerged the country’s First Lady, Doctor Christine Kaseba-Sata, to send a message of peace.
“Silence around issues of men who have sex with men should be stopped and no one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Kaseba-Sata said during a UNAIDS reception in Lasaka, the country’s capital. “Rather, we should address reproductive health issues around this issue.”
Allegedly, Kaseba-Sata has also said that Zambia’s president, Michael Sata, supports gay men.
LGBT activists in the southern African country are calling the First Lady’s words a “miracle” and “potential game-changer.”
“It is hard to overestimate the importance of what the First Lady said—in a country where the vast majority of people are opposed to gay rights,” said Richard Lee, the communications manager for Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. “She is also one of Zambia’s most recognized specialists in obstetrics and gynecology and has practiced as a physician at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka for more than twenty-five years.”
One of the men on trial, activist Paul Kasonkomona, was arrested for speaking publically on the rights of HIV patients. The other two men, Philip Mubiana and James Mwape, are being held on charges of sodomy.
In May, the Minister of Zambian Home Affairs, Edgar Lungu, told reporters, “Those advocating gay rights should go to hell, that is not an issue we will tolerate. There will be no such discussion [of]gay rights. That issue is foreign to this country.”
In Zambia, homosexual sex acts are punishable by up to fourteen years in prison; even an attempt to commit a homosexual act will result in seven years in prison.
Legislation is incredibly intolerant to LGBT citizens, and it seems the people of Zambia feel the same. In 1999, a non-government associated organization called Zambia Against People with Abnormal Sexual Acts (ZAPASA) was created to eliminate homosexuality, and according to LGBT asylum news, a 2010 survey found that just 2 percent of Zambia’s population believes homosexuality is “morally acceptable.”
Even Uganda, which is notorious for its anti-gay laws and culture, scored 9 percentage points higher.