Gay-rights activist’s trial nears final stages
On 20 February 2014, a preliminary ruling will be made in the case of The People v Kasonkomona in the Lusaka Magistrates Court. The ruling will determine if Paul Kasonkomona needs to defend himself against the state’s case or if the case should be dismissed and Kasonkomona acquitted.
According to Anneke Meerkotter of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the magistrate will decide if the prosecution has a case against Kasonkomona for soliciting in a public place for immoral purposes.
Kasonkomona was arrested on 7 April 2013 for calling on television for the government to recognise the rights of sexual minorities including LGBTI people and sex workers as a way to tackle the spread of HIV and AIDS.
“A ruling in favour of Paul would be a great victory for freedom of expression in general and LGBT rights in particular,” says Meerkotter. A favourable ruling in this case would start challenging curbs on freedom of expression, particularly for people who oppose the government’s policies.
According to Juliet Mphande, a human rights, media and peace activist in Zambia, LGBTI activists are routinely harassed and persecuted, despite freedom of expression being a constitutional right in Zambia.
There have also been a number of reports of Zambian LGBTI organisations struggling to register as non-profit organisations. The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is one such organisation that has been struggling, as the government has said that their organisational name is “not acceptable”, according to Denis Nzioka, the Deputy Director of the organisation.
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