Chalwe Charles Mwansa on LGBT activism in Zambia

Published: November 10, 2014

Original Article:

While lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in some sections of the world have progressed in recent years, equality remains elusive in other parts of the world, such as Zambia. On the 2nd July, 2014, Philip Mubiana and James Mwape, both in their early twenties, were acquitted by the magistrate court from charges of having sexual relations “against the order of nature”. They had been held since May 2013, and faced up to 15 years in jail if convicted. Zambia’s tough anti-homosexuality laws date back to the British colonial era and public opinion remains strongly against sexual minorities. This case is one of the many ways that LGBT men and women in Zambia experience homophobic discrimination and persecution at the hands of both state and non- state actors. However, unlike this case, much of this abuse does not reach the country’s media.

When Paul was arrested, he was speaking out about the need to protect gay rights in order for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country to be addressed. Currently there is a lack of health programs that cater for sexual minorities. In particular, there is an urgent need to include men who have same-sex relationships in the country’s National Aids Strategic Framework. In order to help this shift, there has been a move to collect baseline data on HIV/AIDS prevalence amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) and women who have sex with women (WSW). To this end, a study was conducted in December 2012, which marks a step in the right direction, and it is encouraging that sections of civil society have supported the move.

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