Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata
In an unexpected development, the wife of Zambian President Michael Sata, Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, has called for an end to discrimination against LGBT people.
Ricahard Lee from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa reported on Wednesday that Kaseba-Sata – an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist and a World Health Organisation Goodwill Ambassador against Gender-based Violence – made the statement at a UNAIDS event in Lusaka on Tuesday.
She was quoted as saying that the “silence around issues of Men who have Sex with Men should be stopped and no one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. Rather, we should address reproductive health issues around this issue.”
Lee, who called the comments “remarkable” and “potentially game-changing,” added that she also went on to assure people working in the sexual and reproductive health sector of her and the president’s support.
Kaseba-Sata’s words, while welcome, appear somewhat bizarre in that they come amidst a recent government crackdown on gays and lesbians.
In April, barber Philip Mubiana (21) and bricklayer James Mwape (21) were arrested on charges of homosexuality. Six months later they have been refused bail and remain in jail awaiting the conclusion of their drawn-out trial.
That same month, Paul Kasonkomona – a well-known human rights and HIV/AIDS activist – was arrested as he left a Lusaka television studio after making comments on live television supporting the rights of LGBT people and sex workers. His trial is also underway.
In May, Zambian Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu dismissed calls to decriminalise homosexuality in Zambia out of hand and told supporters of gay rights to “go to hell”.
He had earlier told Zambia’s Daily Mail that the police should arrest anyone who attempts to marry another person of the same sex, adding that same-sex marriages are “foreign” and “not a normal thing”.
Consensual adult same-sex acts are criminalised in Zambia. Offences such as sodomy, or sex between women, carry a minimum sentence of 15 years or a maximum of life in prison. Attempts to have same-gender sex without being successful are punishable by a minimum sentence of seven years or a maximum of 14 years jail time.