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Zambian charge: Defendant’s anti-AIDS advocacy was immoral

Paul Kasonkomona

Paul Kasonkomona

Legal proceedings against AIDS fighter Paul Kasonkomona continued Oct. 29 on the charge that, by proposing the repeal of Zambia’s anti-homosexuality law, he was “soliciting for immoral purposes.”

Here is what Kasonkomona said on Muvi TV, as described by Anneke Meerkotter, a lawyer for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which has been helping Kasonkomona:

Kasonkomona made an impassioned plea for recognition of the human rights of all individuals in order to stem HIV transmission. Kasonkomona explained that he had been living with HIV for 15 years – “The last thing I want to see today or tomorrow is a person who is HIV negative today testing HIV positive tomorrow.”

He argued that the abstinence campaign had not resulted in a reduction in HIV incidence, even among heterosexual people, and that every intervention to prevent HIV should be embraced, including decriminalising same-sex sexual practices and improving access to safer sex materials for LGBT persons.

A detective testified Oct. 16 that he concluded that a statement by Kasonkomona that it is not wrong to be homosexual amounted to soliciting for immoral purposes.

Agence France-Presse reported on the  Oct. 29 action in a Lusaka court as if it were the start of the trial; it also included the incorrect description of Kasonkomona as a “gay rights activist.”  His work has actually been in support of human rights in general and against AIDS in particular. He called for the repeal of Zambia’s anti-gay law because it hinders LGBT people’s access to medical care and health information about HIV/AIDS.

Excerpts from AFP ‘s report:

The high-profile trial [of Kasonkomona included] a police officer saying he had instructions to arrest him during a live television programme.

Paul Kasonkomona, 38, was arrested in April …  after arguing for gay rights during the television show.

His arguments were interpreted as promoting homosexuality, which is illegal in the country.

“We were sent to go and apprehend Kasonkomona and we obeyed those instructions,” police officer Kalowa Mwanamwale told magistrate Lameck Ngambi. …

The hearing was adjourned to 11 November after attempts to play a recording of the television programme in court as part of the evidence failed.

Kasonkomona has pleaded not guilty.

Previous court action in the case was described thus by Meerkotter:

Zambia: ‘Gay’ Trial Is Politically Motivated

On 16 October 2013, the long awaited trial of human rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, proceeded in the Lusaka Magistrates Court in Zambia.

Evidence led by the State during Kasonkomona’s trial confirms suspicions that the arrest and prosecution of Kasonkomona was politically motivated.

On 7 April 2013 Kasonkomona was arrested outside Muvi TV studios after he appeared on a television programme, the Assignment, where he spoke about the rights of LGBT persons. …

Kasonkomona was eventually released on bail on 11 April 2013.

Guy Scott, vice president of Zambia (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Guy Scott, vice president of Zambia (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

At the time, Zambia’s Vice President, Guy Scott, in an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, said: “The problem with this guy going on television was that we had to do something because if we had done absolutely nothing we would have got a bollocking from all these evangelical churches plus damn idiots. On the other hand, we didn’t want to give him a particularly hard ride.”

Witnesses on Oct. 16 included the producer of the Muvi TV show on which Kasonkomona appeared, a minister who said Kasonkomona’s views were contrary to Christian values and the constitution, and the detective who said he concluded that Kasonkomona’s words amounted to soliciting for immoral purposes.

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