Two high-profile cases involving a suspected gay couple and a [human rights] activist come back-to-back in Zambian courts this week raising concerns over growing homophobia.
Rights activist Paul Kasonkomona, 38, returns to court Tuesday after his arrest in April for demanding that homosexuality be decriminalised in a television programme.
Barely a month later 21-year-old barber Philip Mubiana and bricklayer James Mwape, 20, were arrested and charged with sodomy.
Zambia’s laws have outlawed same-sex relationships since colonialism under Britain, and a sodomy conviction carries a 14-year prison sentence.
Yet these are the first such cases in recent history in the southern African country amid an increasingly anti-gay climate.
“Those advocating gay rights should go to hell, that is not an issue we will tolerate,” Home Affairs minister Edgar Lungu told reporters last month.
“There will be no such discussion on gay rights. That issue is foreign to this country,” he said. …
Local media have taken up the issue and gay rights have also become a hot topic around ordinary Zambians, though the reasons for the recent crackdown are unclear.
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