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Zambian LGBT rights at risk in May 30 verdict

Jailed in Zambia for a year on homosexuality charges, defendants James Mwape and Philip Mubiana await the end of their ongoing trial.

Jailed in Zambia for a year on homosexuality charges, defendants James Mwape and Philip Mubiana await the end of their ongoing trial.

LGBT rights activists are looking forward apprehensively to the end of the trial of two young Zambian men who have been imprisoned for more than a year on homosexuality charges.

The outcome of the trial, scheduled to end May 30, not only will determine the future of defendants Philip Mubiana and James Mwape, it may also set a precedent that will affect LGBT people throughout Zambia.

Zambian law provides for prison sentences of 15 years to life for sexual intercourse “against the order of nature,” which is generally taken to mean same-sex intercourse.  Until last year, arrests related to that law had been rare.

Mubiana and Mwape of rural Kapiri Mposhi have been in custody since May 6, 2013.  They were arrested after family members reported them to police in response to a nationwide appeal to Zambian citizens to inform on alleged homosexuals. The men’s repeated applications for bail have been rejected.

Friends of Rainka logo

Friends of Rainka logo

If Mubiana is acquitted, he plans to resume work as a hairdresser, an occupation at which he previously earned money to support his younger sister and other siblings, according to an activist in the anti-AIDS, pro-human-rights group Friends of Rainka. One of his sisters died last month; Mubiana was denied his request for a pass to attend her funeral.

If Mwape is acquitted, he plans to work once again as a bricklayer, which helps him support his sick mother, a nephew and a younger brother, who depends on him to pay for his education.

His family has suffered without his support for the past year, the activist said.

If they are released, neither man is likely to return to Kapiri Mposhi, where their troubles began.

Human rights organizations have been providing legal services and food to Mubiana and Mwape.

“How many more lives will be ruined before Zambians realize that criminalization of  individuals  based on their real or perceived  sexual orientation is a violation of their fundamental human rights?” Juliet Mphande, executive director of Friends of Rainka, said earlier. “It’s time for all right-thinking Zambians to help curb this oppression of minorities.”

In the six months after the men’s arrest, Friends of Rainka tallied 43 LGBT-related violations of people’s rights.  At least two other suspected same-sex couples have been arrested; at least one couple is also on trial.

This blog’s previous articles about the trial:

Related articles

Selection of others’ articles about homophobia in Zambia:

6 thoughts on “Zambian LGBT rights at risk in May 30 verdict

  1. Reblogged this on Life in Zambia and commented:
    Read the following blog about the two gay men from kapiri Mposhi, Zambia that have been in custody for over a year. The verdict is due next week and it will probably be an indicator of the direction on gay rights Zambia is taking. The question is, do we really want to follow in the footsteps of backward thinking Ugandan leaders? Would it not be the best for the country if we left hard working, honest citizens to be free and thereby contributing to society? Right now our economy is sliding and Government has bigger issues at hand. Gay’s never have been and never will be a danger or threat to society so it’s folly to lock them up!

    Like

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