Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Zambia: LGBT hit back against state, church

Zambia flag 300Image via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning

Zambian LGBT have hit back against attacks by churches, seemingly encouraged by Zambia's ruling party, amidst fears of an impeding 'crackdown' following government actions in Uganda, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

LGBTI rights group Friends of RAINKA say that the Evangelical fellowship of Zambia should “cease using the gay community as a scapegoat for their inadequacies and failures. The Zambian gay community will not be used by fledgling religious organisations for publicity or monetary gain.”

According to Rainka Zambian clergy have publicly reacted to comments by Marie Andersson de Frutos, Swedish envoy to Zambia, who encouraged the government to come up with a constitution that respects universal human rights including sexual orientation.
Media reports this week have highlighted continued negative reactions to Ambassador de Frutos' progressive advice as church leaders feel that the International community is perpetuating homosexuality.

Church organisations and non-governmental organisations have also condemned reports that the number of gay people in Zambia is growing and that some donor nations were prepared to fund their programmes. These allegations are as a result of continued and increased advocacy from the gay community over the past year.
The views of Anglican Council presiding Bishop Robert Mumbi were published on President Rupiah Bwezani Banda's website. According to the Zambian State House website:
Anglican Council presiding Bishop Robert Mumbi says homosexuality is against African traditional way of life and Christian values. Bishop Mumbi said it was the Christian and traditional values that defined Zambia and set it apart from other countries and a lot of work needed to be done in the wake of strong gay rights campaigns and unchristian activities.
He said urbanisation was increasingly challenging the traditional and Christian values of the country and that not many people were standing up to speak against ungodly practices.

“The world is not static and the more urbanised we become, the more secular we shall be,” Bishop Mumbi said.

He said there should also be political awareness, especially to do with certain human rights charters that the Government endorsed, saying some of them actually perpetuated some people championing homosexual activities.

The Church would not compromise on Christian values and it would challenge wrongdoing regardless of whether people were championing human rights or not.
According to Friends of RAINKA, Bishop Mususu’s comments are not surprising considering the “herd mentality” of African leaders.

The gay rights group further stated:
“Bishop Paul Mususu is not acting alone and he is merely echoing the sentiments that continue to reverberate across the continent, he is calling for blood. He and his peers are a desperate generation of bigots that have watched and condoned an era of poverty ignorance and disease and have failed to call it for what it is.”
The Times of Zambia reported on how Zambia's ruling political party champions a complete lack of separation between religion and civil society on the issue of LGBTI human rights.
MMD acting spokesperson Mike Mulongoti said the ruling party could not embrace or support the gay rights because the party was founded on Christian norms.

“Zambia is declared a Christian nation and anything that is unChristian and alien to our society is deemed to be an abomination,” Mr Mulongoti said.

Mr Mulongoti, who is Works and Supply minister said the MMD strongly condemned people championing gay rights.

He said supporting anything that was unChristian was outrageous and the MMD would not want to associate itself with such activities.

Mr Mulongoti said there was no political leader from the ruling party who had associated themselves with championing homosexuality.
Vice President Kunda has said that "‘homosexuals have joined the crusade of fighting the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation'" and that "sadism, Satanism, and hatred behaviour" could ensue.

Despite this the Government of Zambia, in its National AIDS Strategic Framework, has acknowledged the need to reconsider criminalization of same-sex sexual activity so that MSM populations can be adequately targeted as a part of the response to HIV/AIDS, stating that: "[t]he legal impediment to effective HIV and AIDS interventions and programming for MSM...should be revisited so that people in this group are readily identifiable and supported with appropriate HIV and AIDS interventions."

Human Rights Watch has written to President Banda saying that they are concerned about the "risk posed to the continuing success of Zambia's HIV prevention, testing and treatment campaigns by recent statements first by religious leaders and then government authorities condemning homosexuality."
"Homophobic statements by prominent leaders are already creating a climate of fear among men who have sex with men and threaten to drive this population underground, as activists fear a government crackdown on individuals suspected of being homosexual in Zambia," they say.
In March the National Constitutional Conference during the Constitution Review Process decided to adopt a clause that prohibits marriage between people of the same sex.

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