Outrage at detention of Zambian gay human rights defender

“My sisters and brothers, Jesus calls us to love even our enemies. Demeaning the humanity of another person is not a virtue but a vice. You don’t need reminding that the first step to genocide is demeaning your opponents’ humanity.” Reverend Kapya Kaoma

By Melanie Nathan, April 10, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 2.10.40 PM
Reverend Kapya Kaoma

This week we reported the detention of  prominent HIV/Aids activist Paul Kasonkomona, who was picked up from Muvi TV station in Lusaka by Woodlands police for questioning after his appearance on a live program called ‘The Assignment’, where he called for same-sex relationships to be decriminalized. He is still in detention.

It would seem this is an issue of free speech – noting that homosexual acts are illegal in deeply conservative Zambia. On all accounts, there seem to be no appropriate charges and Kasonkomona may be the subject of unlawful detention.

The detention is not only causing rebuke internationally, but a well deserved outcry from a local Zambian, Reverend Kapya Kaoma, who has written an article in the Lusaka Times, questioning the democratic principles of Zambian authorities:

“The arrest of human rights activist Paul Kasonkomona deserves condemnation by all Zambians of good will. If speaking in favor of gay rights is a crime, then our democracy is hollow. Free speech is among the many values that democracy upholds. Of course, the Acting President, Edgar Lungu, justified the arrest on the premise that “the bible is against” same-sex relations and that people with money are behind gay rights – hence “we better remain poor” than grant gays their rights. It is clear that Mr. Lungu does not know that he is not acting Bishop but President. With due respect, the Bible is not the constitution of Zambia.”

And:

“As Zambians, we should consider ourselves as one family. We carry one passport and share one name, Mother Zambia. We are all endowed with inherent rights and Dignity by the Creator. I know you can cite versus from the Bible to make your case, but the bible tells me that we are all children of God. I am not saying that there is no room for disagreements, but those differences shouldn’t rob us of our dignity.”

The Reverend speaks passionately to the criticism and derogatory comments he has received for standing up for the rights and dignity of all Zambians, and now for the gays living as Zambians in a democracy:

“Coming back to gay rights, I kept a low profile on this issue – especially when it came to Zambia. But there are kairos moments when taking a stand is all we have to do. I am a defender of gay rights and I am not apologetic about it. I fully understand that defending human rights demands courage – that is why it is a struggle. We only get human rights by putting our lives on the line.”

Read the whole article – it is a worthy read – at http://www.lusakatimes.com/2013/04/10/when-democracy-fails-gays-are-zambians-too/

South Africa-based campaign group Ndifuna Ukwazi demanded Mr Kasonkomona’s release, in an online petition addressed to Zambia’s President Michael Sata: “We further urge your government to immediately start a process to decriminalise consensual sex between adults in private irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity,” the group said. “This means repealing the laws introduced by the British colonial administration and codified in the Zambian penal code. All consensual adult same-sex acts are criminalized in Zambia, Ndifuna Ukwazi said. Offenses such as sodomy, or sex between women, carry a minimum sentence of 15 years or a maximum of life,” it added.

Paul Kasonkomona remains imprisoned at the time of writing this article, despite the fact that the required guarantees have been provided for his release. He is indeed to be considered a political prisoner and not a criminal. He is due to appear in court Thursday. We await word.

PLEASE note the situation for Gays in Zambia is critical as Tweeted moments ago:

“Kapya Kaoma @drkapyakaoma 35s
The situation in Zambia is heartbreaking. The police announced that they are starting a manhunt for all LGBTIs. All of them are now on a run”

We Reported the manhunts a few days ago at:   Zambian Police Hunting Homosexuals and Arrest HIV/AIDS Activist Zambia – LGBTI Community under attack as scapegoats- as government discusses contentious issues in the draft constitution… http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/04/09/zambian-police-hunting-homosexuals-and-arrest-hivaids-activist/

I have been speaking to activists who are in hiding who say fear widespread arrests.

4/10 6:25pmET update:

Kapya Kaoma ‏@drkapyakaoma 2m
@allout @IGLHRC @PRAEyesRight. I feel so powerless. ‘Do the world want us to die before they can come to our aid?’ Zambian activist.

Melanie Nathan
nathan@privatecourts.com
@melanienathan1


8 thoughts on “Outrage at detention of Zambian gay human rights defender

  1. Oh, m’lord!!! It doesn’t stop, does it!! Thx for sharing this info. What can be done? I think disseminate the info to others …. spread the word.

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