Human rights organizations and activists have condemned the continued victimization of LGBTQ and intersex people in Zambia.
Anti-LGBTQ and intersex sentiments have been gaining momentum in recent weeks, including Dr. Brian Sampa’s #banbeardtobeard campaign in relation to gay couples. Alick Banda, the archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Lusaka, and other Zambian religious leaders have also echoed these sentiments.
“In the last 12 months, we have witnessed an increase in the number of incidents and events that promote LGBTQ tendencies contrary to the laws of Zambia and our Zambian culture. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of incidents of sodomy where boys and men are raped by fellow boys and men with impunity,” said Banda on Sept. 25. “We have witnessed several cases of sodomy and homosexuality on the increase in our society much to the displeasure and disapproval of the general public. Unfortunately, the law enforcement agents and the president who took an oath to protect the Constitution seems to be paying a blind eye. The question that begs an answer is, is it by design or by default.”
Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Zambia.
President Hakainde Hichilema last month reiterated his government does not support LGBTQ and intersex rights in response to Sampa’s protest.
The Global Interface Network, a global NGO that promotes safety and inclusion for all people of faith and especially for people who suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation, criticized Banda’s comments.
“The statement by the archbishop has the potential to further escalate violence and we are deeply concerned for the wellbeing and safety of members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Zambia,” said the Global Interface Network in a statement it released on Sept. 26. “Religious leaders are the shepherds of their flocks and have a responsibility to provide guidance, care and support to the faith community. Although we understand that for the Archbishop of Lusaka, same sex sexualities and non-normative gender identities are unfamiliar, we do not believe that it is appropriate, especially in a context in which people are already marginalized and subjected to violence and discrimination, for the archbishop to put his stamp of approval on further violence.”
The Global Interface Network in its statement encouraged Banda and the country’s Catholic Church “to enter into a process of fellowship and discernment alongside 2SLGBTQIA+ people of faith and skilled dialogue facilitators in Zambia and to collectively grow in the mission to offer compassion, care and love to the most vulnerable.”
“The people of Zambia, just as it is the people of the African continent, deserve an opportunity to see humanity beyond heterosexuality,” it said. “That opportunity has the potential for a reclamation of the African people’s history of dealing with diversity, an opportunity of understanding beyond the common narrative of dehumanization.”
Mino, a Zambian LGBTQ and intersex activist, said Sampa has been sharing misleading information on his social media platforms that has influenced religious leaders and others across the country.
“The leader of this ban homosexuality movement has jumped from one cause to the other without success and unfortunately, this has seen him get heavy backing from people who share similar religious views. The whole thing has not been objective, the information he is disseminating is highly inaccurate, and full of untruths about 2SLGBTQIA+ persons. Sadly, the church and in a way the State has also jumped on this bandwagon,” said Mino.
“Nevertheless, despite the current situation facing the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Zambia, it is my hope that this opens a balanced dialogue of issues of sexuality and gender,” added Mino. “People must have accurate information on who we are as people and begin to see us as human beings with lives, families, interests, jobs, struggles, just like any other person as currently the 2SLGBTQIA+ community has been reduced to being only sexual beings and cannot be seen beyond that.”