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Zambia: Acquittal for opponent of anti-gay laws

Paul Kasonkomona released (Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog)

Paul Kasonkomona released on bail in April 2013. (Photo courtesy of Zambian Watchdog)

AIDS activist Paul Kasonkomona was acquitted today on charges that he was “soliciting for immoral purposes” when he appealed on television for the repeal of the Zambian law against homosexual activity, which he said encourages the spread of AIDS.

Magistrate Lameck Ng’ambi ruled that the prosecution failed to prove its case against him. Because of that ruling, Kasonkomona’s defense did not have to present its case.

Under Zambian law, homosexual activity is punishable by prison sentences of 15 years to life.

Kasonkomona was arrested on April 7, 2013, immediately after appearing on local Muvi TV, and was faced with the charge that his appeal for reform was a form of “soliciting for immoral purposes in a public place.”

He and other activists say that anti-gay laws lead to increased levels of HIV and AIDS by making LGBT people fearful of acknowledging their sexual orientation, even to a doctor.

Court proceedings against him have been in process since May. He was released on bail on April 11.

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

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

After Kasonkomona’s arrest, Zambian Vice President Guy Scott admitted that the arrest was politically motivated. He said in an interview: “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.”

Kasonkomona’s arrest came during a wave of homophobia that began with a news article claiming that four gay couples had tried to register themselves as married on March 30.

Soon afterwards, police called on Zambian citizens to report suspected homosexuals.  Several human rights activists went into hiding to avoid arrest.

Two men were arrested in May and another two in August on homosexuality-related charges.

Activists say that, since last spring, they have seen a rapid increase in human rights violations against LGBTI persons, including acts of violence, intimidation, arbitrary arrests, blackmail and extortion.

Kasonkomona, who is often described incorrectly as a gay-rights activist, has focused his work primarily on human rights in general and on AIDS prevention in particular.  His proposal to repeal the country’s law about same-sex relations is aimed at eliminating the barriers to AIDS-related health services that LGBT people confront.  He works with the Civil Society Health Forum and the Engender Rights Centre for Justice in Zambia.

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6 thoughts on “Zambia: Acquittal for opponent of anti-gay laws

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