Zambia: President Edgar Lungu Pardons Gay Couple And Over 2,900 Other Prisoners

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu on Monday pardoned two men who were sentenced to 15 years in prison in November over unnatural acts, reported Reuters. The amnesty was granted to commemorate Freedom Day celebration in Africa.

The 39-year old Japhet Chataba and 31-year old Steven Samba were sentenced at the end of 2019 by a Lusaka High Court judge for 15 years in prison after they were caught having sex in 2017 which was against the order of nature. The men’s persecution drew criticism from then US ambassador Daniel Foote. At that time, Foote said he was horrified by the court’s decision, arousing harsh response in conservative Zambia.

The U.S recalled its ambassador from Zambia after President Lungu said the ambassador was no longer welcomed in the country.

 The two were among nearly 3,000 inmates pardoned by President Lungu last Friday.

Notably, Zambia is a deeply conservative country where homosexual acts are considered illegal. The country does not explicitly prohibit homosexual relations, but its Constitution does not allow for “any carnal relations against natural order.”

 In fact, most of the African countries consider same-sex relationships as taboo and gay sex as a crime, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.

Over the past decade, several African countries have come into conflict with Western countries over LGBT rights. The Obama administration cut monetary aid to Uganda and Malawi over their anti-homosexual laws and policies, although Western condemnation sometimes provokes African leaders into taking more hardline positions. The U.S. also provides hundreds of millions of dollars every year to Zambia in financial support.

Uganda announced plans in October last year for a bill that would impose the death penalty for gay sex but later backtracked under Western pressure as many western countries said they were monitoring the situation. The country overturned the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014, but gay sex still remains illegal.

Caroline Finnegan

A professionnal journalist for the past ten years, I cover global news and economic affairs for The Chief Observer.

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