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Zambia: Ban Ki-moon Calls on Nation to Respect Gay Rights

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Zambia, Citizen Media, LGBTQ+, Politics

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [1] visited [2] Zambia recently, addressed parliament, met key political figures among them the first republican President Kenneth Kaunda and visited the country’s prime tourism destination, the Victoria Falls in the southern city of Livingstone. None of these have made as much news as his call on the nation to respect gay rights.

Reported the Lusaka Times [3]:

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says people with different cultural backgrounds need dignity and respect. Mr. Ban notes homosexuals, lesbians and gays are people whose rights need to be dignified and respected by mankind.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo courtesy of zambianwatchdog.com.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo courtesy of zambianwatchdog.com.

In his address to the Zambian National Assembly [4], Mr Ban said:

Now you have embarked on a transformation agenda – a process for a new people-driven Constitution that will be a foundation for Zambia’s progress, a Constitution that will stand the test of time.This offers Zambia an opportunity to lead once more by enshrining the highest standards of human rights and protections for all people – regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

His statement brought back into focus the issue of homosexuality [5]  for which the then ruling MMD nearly destroyed the then opposition leader, now republican President Michael Sata, during the campaigns leading to last September’s elections which saw him beat former President Rupiah Banda.

Zambia netizens on most social networking sites have reacted differently to Ban’s statement, with most of them invoking the “Christian Nation” tag, which is enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Reacting to the Lusaka Times story (quoted above), Mambala wrote:

hehehe!!!!! Mr Ban, we expected to hear that from you. Infact that was yo main agenda… to advance the cause of the homosexual and lesbians. Listen Zambia is a sovereign state, we dont have to be told how to live. We knw those homos and lesbians have always been part of our society. They do their acts in secrecy and we are ok with that. If they dare come out in the open to advance their evils, we will deal with them ruthlessly!!!!

A map showing penalties targeting gays and lesbians in Africa. Image source: ilga.org

A map showing penalties targeting gays and lesbians in Africa. Image source: ilga.org

Citizen wrote:

Please Mr Secretary General, we as Zambians have accepted that we are a Christian Nation, it is in our constitution and so becomes our Right. Being such means respect for all persons as they are God’s imagery creation – including criminals, homosexuals,lesbians, liars, prostitutes and the like, while at the same time condemning their sinful activities, so that they turn away. Mr SG, we know you want us to follow other nations by not criminalising homosexuality. That we shall refuse. We shall never de-criminalise such acts. Let those nations copy from us because it is the most sensible thing to do

One of the few contrary voices, Observer, wrote:

Mr Ban is talking about BASIC rights. He is not talking about gay marrriage or that kind of thing. Have some of you read the story before commenting? Basic rights is like the right to clean water or education. He is saying these people should be allowed to live life free from physical danger and enjoy same basic rights without discrimination. I do not see anything wrong with that. These are people too. Our churches and families should work hard to ensure young people stay away from homosexuality and other negative stuff. Government can not be tasked with supervising lives of individuals. It is nice to have our country visited by Mr Ban.

On Zambian Facebook group, 90 days (Government thumbs up/down every 90 days) [6], Sidique Abdullah Gondwe Geloo made a distinction [7] between a sin and a crime:

HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN, NOT A CRIME. FORNICATION IS A SIN NOT A CRIME. Should an unmarried man go to jail for having sex with another unmarried women? No. They sinned but its not a crime, they made the decision. Should gay people go to jail for dating…It is a filthy filthy SIN but not a crime…They have rights not be stoned, killed or harrassed, but they shouldnt have rights to get married, display their feelings publicly because we are a very PROUDLY HOMOPHOBIC COUNTRY…So when someone says gay people have rights, that shouldnt scare you as long as they keep their gayism at home

On Twitter, one tweep addressed Ban Ki-moon saying:

@chikwe1 [8]: Ban Ki Moona If denouncing #Homosexuality [9] makes me a #Savage [10] then I'd rather #Live [11] and #Die [12] a savage than otherwise. Stay away from #Zambia [13]

While debate over homosexuality rages in Africa, Liberia [14] and Uganda [15] introduced anti-gay bills recently making homosexuality liable to a death sentence. Homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries and it can be punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria.