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Sunday, 23 January 2011

In Zambia, opposition forced to position itself on homosexuality

By Paul Canning

Zambia's opposition leader Michael Sata has been attacked by government and religious leaders and in local media during the 2011 general election as pro-gay because his party has refused to state its position.

His party has said "not preoccupy itself with less pressing issues because it was currently more concerned with the welfare of the people."

Last week Sata broke his silence, saying that meetings he had been reported to have held with foreign diplomats were 'in order to explain to them what Zambia’s standpoint on homosexuality was so that they would understand.'

Religious leaders have previously accused Sata of "having meetings with donors where he was assuring them that he would legalise homosexuality and revert the country to a secular state provided they backed his candidacy."

Sata said:
“The laws of Zambia recognizes the existence of those people and also the laws of Zambia have provided the penalties and restrictions for those organisations you are talking about. Now when did I ever stand on the pulpit and say this is my stand? So they don’t know which way to go, that is why they are manufacturing those stories.”

“The point is, the constitution of Zambia does not accept lesbianism or homosexuality, those are the laws of the country which we must obey. So as a Christian nation why should we even be talking about those things because Christianity does not allow sex by man to man.
Commentators at the Lusaka Times suggested that Sata's words weren't going to silence this election wedge issue. Said one:
There goes Chameleon man. So you held meetings with them about their rights? We said that he had meeting with lesbos & gays and people called us names and insulted us and accused us of being scared of him. He now has admitted and has not apparently denounced gays but hid behind the constitution.

Forget what the constitution says for a moment Mr Sata, what is your position on gays? And what did they promise you in exchange for turning Zambia into a secular state. We know if you came to power you would scrap the laws you are talking about. Was the money offered not enough?
Said another:
Honestly, when Lifwekelo and other guys told us that Sata was discussing with diplomats and other groups about promoting gay rights, some of us urged Sata to clarify and bloggers accused Lifwekelo, Edward Mumbi and others of just yapping. I am wondering what you have to say now but honestly I do not fully believe what Sata has said as in the purpose of there meeting. In the first place, we were not exactly there to know what they discussed and one thing we should know is that Laws can be changed. Mr. Sata gave a public relations answer to this issue. Why has he taken this long to respond? I am aware that Mr Sata once queried in a PRIVATE mail by one of my uncles who lives in USA, he responded to him that “… he should not waste time in asking him about gay rights..”
Zambian LGBTI group Friends of Rainka says that the government is unpopular and using homosexuality as a 'wedge issue' in the elections.

They say that there is a mounting "witch hunt" against the gay community and an "eerie silence from Zambia's civil society and the international community."

A 2010 survey revealed that only 2% of Zambians find homosexuality to be morally acceptable; nine points below the figure recorded in Uganda (11% acceptance).
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