Homophobic trial starts in Zambia
Two men charged with acts 'against order of nature'
Many eyes in Zambia - and further afield - will be focussed on the Kapiri Mposhi Magistrates' court over the next two days. While two young men will be on trial for being gay, Zambia will find itself in the court of public opinion (especially in key donor countries) over widepread homophobia - and a recent surge in anti-gay rhetoric from priests and politicians.
The two men were arrested on 8 May and charged in terms of section 155 of the Zambian Penal Code, which criminalises any person who has carnal knowledge of any person or who permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him 'against the order of nature'.
The two men pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and have remained in custody. If convicted, the two men face possible life imprisonment.
And the media is also under the spotlight for some of its poor reporting of the case.
“What is so concerning about this matter, is that the media has consistently been publishing incorrect information about the case," said Anneke Meerkotter, LGBT/Sex Work Project Lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which is supporting the case. "Much of what has been said so far in the media is pure fabrication and bears little resemblance to the facts in this case. It is unfortunate that the two men were arrested at the height of anti-gay rhetoric expressed by politicians, religious leaders and the media."
In fact, rather than the timing being 'unfortunate', it is much more likely the two men were arrested solely because of the increase in anti-gay hate speech, including specific calls for the public to report gays to the police for 'breaking the law'.