Thoughts on UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki-Moon’s recent visit to Zambia

Sara Drawwater
12 March 2012
The UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon’s recent three day state visit to Zambia marks a historic event — he is the first UN Secretary General to visit Zambia since its independence from Britain in…

The UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon’s recent three day state visit to Zambia marks a historic event — he is the first UN Secretary General to visit Zambia since its independence from Britain in 1964. The trip raised several discussion points but what really caught people’s attention was his call on the Zambian government to respect the rights of every individual including those that want to practice homosexuality.

The call ties with General Ban-Ki-Moon recent statement saying that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is one form of discrimination that has either been ignored or sanctioned by many states for far too long. He encouraged countries to live up to the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Africa’s viewThe debate over the recognition of gay rights is a touchy subject in Africa. So far South Africa is the first and only country in Africa to officially grant same-sex marriage. Countries like Ghana and Zimbabwe have recently made it clear that such rights will by no means be tolerated and are in fact criminal and punishable by the law of the land.

The Christian viewThe general argument against homosexuality in Zambia has been based on the county’s declaration as a Christian nation in 1991 by Zambia’s second Republican President Dr Fredrick Chiluba. Christianity makes it very clear that homosexuality is unacceptable and this view is consistent throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. (Refer to Genesis 2:24, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26–27, 1 Cor. 6:9–10)

Current Zambian lawHomosexuality is considered a felony in Zambia, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. However, the country’s constitution does include a general non-discrimination clause and few people have been prosecuted for homosexuality. It may be interesting to note that as a former 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 original sodomy laws.

Political viewsThe debate over homosexual rights is not new in Zambia. During the run up to the elections that brought the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) to power, gay rights became a thorny issue. Famous journalist, Chanda Chimba, accused the PF of supporting the legalisation of gay rights because they were being sponsored by gay sympathisers. The PF denied these accusations and the journalist was sued.

The issue became a subject of discussion once more after British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said in November 2011 that British international aid will be tied to respect for gay rights. Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister at the time, Given Lubinda, reacted sharply and assured the Zambian electorate that the country’s leaders would not bow to outside pressure to respect and tolerate homosexuality in the nation.

General Ban-Ki-Moon’s call for the recognition of gay rights has resulted in a strong call from the Zambian people for the Government to make their position on the issue of gay rights clear. Generally opposition parties in Zambia have categorically stated that they will not support any bill recommending the recognition of gay rights. Opposition leader Felix Mutati stated, “Our position is very clear, we will go by what is currently in the Constitution. Anything below that will be abrogating values. Zambia is a Christian nation and Christianity is against homosexuality, so any position to change the status quo will be a tough one.”

The Zambian Government has finally given its official position on the ongoing debate on gay rights. Chief Government Spokesperson, Fackson Shamenda, recently told a media briefing in Lusaka that the laws of the land are very clear and homosexuality is not allowed in Zambia. He added that Government would not entertain the amendment of the law to allow for the recognition of gay rights.

ConclusionIndividuals and organisations would do well to respect each others laws, culture and freedom of conscience. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should not be used as a tool to push a particular ‘right’ at the expense of another. Surely a nation and its people have a ‘right’ to follow their collective conscience? Developing countries should not allow themselves to be bullied into compromising their principles in exchange for aid.

We welcome your thoughts on this controversial issue.

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Image credit: The London Evening Post