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Zambia Gay Rights Activist Paul Kasonkomona Arrested after TV Appeal to Decriminalize Homosexuality

Paul Kasonkomona (Photo: Mwebantu)

Paul Kasonkomona (Photo: Mwebantu)

A prominent Zambian gay rights activist has been arrested after appearing on television to call for the decriminalization of homosexuality.

The BBC reports that Paul Kasonkomona was arrested on Sunday by police in the southern African nation’s capital city of Lusaka. Kasonkomona was arrested as he exited the studios of Muvi Television, a privately-owned station, where he’d just delivered a live on-air call for the decriminalization of same-sex relationships. According to Muvi TV sources, police attempted to halt the live interview with Kasonkomona but were prevented from doing so by station management. The activist was apprehended by plainclothes policemen as he was about to be driven from the station by colleagues, including a lawyer. Muvi TV reports that Kasonkomona was transported to Woodlands Police Station for interrogation.

Police Chief Solomon Jere told reporters that Kasonkomona was charged with “inciting the public to take part in indecent activities.”

As they are in many African countries, homosexual acts are illegal in Zambia, a deeply conservative nation of 13.5 million people. According to the Zambian Penal Code, “any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature… commits a felony” and can be imprisoned “for a term not less than 15 years and may be liable to imprisonment for life.” Additionally, “any male who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with a male… commits a felony and is liable, upon conviction, to imprisonment for a term not less than seven years and not exceeding 14 years.”

Other crimes “against the order of nature” include bestiality; under the statute, a Zambian man was recently found guilty of having sex with a chicken, resulting in the bird’s death.

“It is not a culture of Zambians, Africans and Ngonis to practice homosexuality and gay people should be caged,” Chief Madzimawe of the Ngoni people of Zambia told the Zambia Daily Mail.

Chief Shakumbila of Mumbwa, a town in Central Province, weighed in on the issue, telling the Zambia Daily Mail that Zambia is a Christian nation with no room for homosexuality. The chief urged human rights activists to stop advocating for gay rights, which he believes will corrupt young people’s minds.

The South Africa-based human rights group Ndifuna Ukwazi has demanded Kasonkomona’s release in an online petition addressed to Zambian President Michael Sata.

“We… urge your government to immediately start a process to decriminalize consensual sex between adults in private irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Ndifuna Ukwazi stated.

The BBC reports that a group of same-sex couples attempted to register their marriages in Lusaka last week but were prevented from doing so and threatened with arrest.

The United Kingdom and the United States have both said they would use foreign aid as a means of attempting to persuade the Zambian government to decriminalize homosexuality, and the European Union has offered financial support to Zambian gay rights groups.

According to the US State Department, “societal violence against gay men” occurs in Zambia, as does “discrimination in employment, housing and access to education and health care.”

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