LGBT rights in Zambia

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LGBT rights in Zambia
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Illegal[1]
Up to 14 years imprisonment[2]
Gender identity/expression -

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in Zambia face legal challenges not faced by non-LGBT citizens. Same-sex sexual activity is illegal for both males and females in Zambia.[1]

Formerly a colony of the British Empire, Zambia inherited the laws and legal system of its colonial master upon independence in 1964. Laws concerning homosexuality have largely remained unchanged since then, and homosexuality is covered by sodomy laws that also proscribe bestiality.[1]

Social attitudes toward LGBT people are mostly negative and coloured by perceptions that homosexuality is immoral and a form of insanity.[1] In 1999, the non-governmental organisation Zambia Against People with Abnormal Sexual Acts (ZAPASA) formed to combat homosexuality and homosexuals in Zambia.[1][3]

Arguably the largest receipient of Fundamentalist Evangelical missionaries during British colonial times,[4][5][6][7], societal attitudes towards homosexuality heavily mirror these influences. 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).[8]

Laws against homosexuality

Homosexuality is proscribed by Cap. 87, Sections 155 through 157 of Zambia's penal code.[3]

Section 155 ("Unnatural Offences") classifies homosexual sex (in the vague description "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature") as a felony punishable by imprisonment for 14 years.[3]

Section 156 imposes imprisonment for seven years for any "attempt to commit unnatural offences". Finally, Section 157 applies to "any act of gross indecency" committed between males, "whether in public or in private", and classifies such acts as felonies punishable by imprisonment for five years. The provision also extends to "attempts to procure the commission of any such act [of gross indecency]".[3]

Although Zambia's penal code contains no explicit reference to consensual sex between females, Cap. 87, Section 155 legally covers lesbianism.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Zambia provides no recognition of same-sex couples. In 2006, Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha stated that Zambia would never legalise same-sex marriage, claiming that it is a sin that goes against the country's Christian status (see Religion in Zambia).[9] In February 2010, the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) unanimously agreed to adopt a clause that expressly forbids marriage between people of the same sex.[10]

Discrimination protections

There is no explicit legal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation in Zambia. The Constitution of 1991, as amended by Act no. 17 of 1996, contains an anti-discrimination clause, present in Article 23 of the document. According to Article 23(1), "no law shall make any provision that is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect". Article 23(2) further prohibits discrimination "by any person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority", and Article 23(3) defines discrimination as extending to differential treatment of persons on the basis of "race, tribe, sex, place of origin, marital status, political opinions, color or creed".[3]

Living conditions

According to a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee by Global Rights and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the criminalization of consensual homosexual sex in Zambia "has a devastating impact on same-sex practicing people in Zambia". The report asserts that LGBT people are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, "discrimination in education, employment, housing, and access to services", and extortion–often with the knowledge or participation of law enforcement authorities.[3]

According to a report by Behind the Mask, a non-profit organisation dedicated to LGBT affairs in Africa,[11] most LGBT people in Zambia are closeted due to fear of targeting and victimisation. Lesbians are especially vulnerable, according to the report, due to the patriarchal structure of Zambian society.[1]

Restrictions on advocating for LGBT rights

The Zambian government does not permit advocacy of LGBT rights.[3]

In 1998, in a statement to the National Assembly of Zambia, Vice President Christon Tembo called for the arrest of individuals who promote gay rights, citing a need to "protect public morality".[3] President Frederick Chiluba described homosexuality as "unbiblical" and "against human nature".[12] Later, Home Affairs Minister Peter Machungwa ordered the arrest of any individual or group attempting to formally register a gay rights advocacy group. Herbert Nyendwa, the Registrar of Societies, stated that he would refuse to register any LGBT organisation or civic group.[3]


As of July 2007, no public or private programmes provide HIV-related counselling to homosexual men in Zambia, where the HIV seroprevalence rate among adults is approximately 17%.[13] Although men involved in same-sex sexual relationships have a higher risk of HIV transmission, the government-operated National AIDS Control Program does not address same-sex relationships.[3]

In June 2007, the Zambian Ministry of Health agreed to conduct, together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Society for Family Health under Population Services International, an assessment to evaluate HIV and AIDS prevalence and transmission among gay men.[14]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Numwa, Regina. Zambia. Behind The Mask. Retrieved on 2008-06-01.
  2. Ottosson, Daniel (May 2008). State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Page 43. International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Retrieved on 2009-05-05.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Fabeni, Stefano, Cary Alan Johnson, and Joel Nana (July 2007). The Violations of the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons in Zambia. Global Rights and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved on 2008-06-01.
  9. "Zambia will never legalise gay marriages-gov’t", African Veil, 2006-12-10. Retrieved on 2008-06-01. 
  10. NCC to adopt clause that forbids same sex marriage
  11. Who we are. Behind The Mask. Retrieved on 2008-06-01.
  12. Special Issues and Campaigns: Lesbian And Gay Rights. World Report 1999. Human Rights Watch (1999). Retrieved on 2008-08-06.
  13. Zambia. The World Factbook 2008. Central Intelligence Agency (2008-05-15). Retrieved on 2008-06-01.
  14. Mhlambiso, Nthateng. "Hope for Zambian MSM", Behind The Mask, 2007-07-26. Retrieved on 2008-06-01. 

External links


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