No reports of harsh punishment for gays under Hichilema

No reports of harsh punishment for gays under President Hakainde Hichilema and United Party for National Development (UPND) leadership. Gay rights advocates will agree it is not enough to call it a progress on the issue.

Late 2019 two men were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by Zambia high court judge for engaging in same sex relationship. The punishment was too harsh to dodge criticism. Not only local gay rights advocates criticized the punishment, the international community did as well.

The United States Ambassador to Zambia then, Daniel Foote, criticized the punishment. He was expelled from the country for that.

Since then, no harsh punishment has been recorded, but that doesn’t mean LGBTQ+ individuals in Zambia are free. They are not because the law criminalizing homosexuality still exist.

Those interested in the issue definitely expected Senator Patty Murray and his team to discuss that with President Hakainde Hichilema during the recent visit to the country. It appears they did not discuss LGBTQ+ rights.

“This morning at State House, we held a meeting with the U.S. congressional delegation led by Senator Patty Murray. The other senators included; Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, Senator Gary Peters from Michigan, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada and Senator Peter Welch from Vermont.

During the meeting we discussed a wide range of issues including the friendship that Zambia shares with the United States. We briefed the delegation on how Zambia is repositioning its social, economic and political journey, with the national development plan as the blue print.

Other issues discussed included the drought, food security, and jobs for our women and youth. We also thanked them for the support in the recently concluded debt restructuring process. We shall continue to engage with partners for the betterment of our country. May God bless our country, Zambia. May God bless the United States of America.”

Hichilema posted on his Facebook page few minutes after hosting the U.S. Congressional delegation at State House in the capital Lusaka on March 26, 2024. The post doesn’t mention LGBTQ+ rights.

When he was in opposition Hichilema position on gay rights was not that clear. Many mistakenly thought he support gay rights. Today Hichilema position is very clear. He has repeatedly stated his administration is not ready for homosexuality.

The article on U.S Embassy in Zambia page talking about the very meeting does not clearly mention LGBTQ+ rights either. A paragraph that closely points to that says the delegation met with President Hakainde Hichilema and several Zambian government ministers to explore how the United States can support reforms to the business enabling environment to attract greater investment and better spur economic growth.

It continues by saying the government leaders discussed the decades-long U.S. support for the health and agriculture sectors and strategies for systematically expanding agricultural productivity and sustaining Zambia’s improvements in public health. And says they also emphasized the central roles of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms to accountable and responsive democratic governance.

The paragraph ends by saying separately, the delegation met with members of the private sector and civil society to discuss efforts to bolster Zambia’s economic growth and support for democratic governance. It mentions fundamental freedoms. Because individual rights fall under such freedoms, maybe LGBTQ+ rights were on the table.

The delegation was led by Senator Patty Murray of Washington. In a company was Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, Senator Gary Peters from Michigan, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto from Nevada and Senator Peter Welch from Vermont. Was on a two-day visit to Zambia.

Late 2019 two men were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for engaging in same sex relationship. Since then, there have been no reports of harsh punishments in relation to homosexuality.

It is not enough to call that a progress on LGBTQ+ rights. It could be because of fear. The visiting U.S. Congressional delegation needed to engage Hichilema on the issue. The law can remain, the punishment needs to be looked at.

By Venus N Msyani

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *