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Zambia gay activists take part in training how to lobby policy makers

in ZAMBIA, 25/10/2011

Zambian activists are taking part in advocacy training in Sweden in order to engage the Zambian government on minority sexual rights.

A group of Zambian gay and lesbian activists are currently taking part in advocacy training in Sweden in readiness to engage the Zambian government on the sexual rights of minorities.

The three-week long training is being attended by 50 activists from other African countries namely Cameroon, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Malawi.

The meeting is sponsored by Sweden’s National Association for Sexuality Education, the Swedish National Association for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (RFSL), and the Swedish International development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The Zambia group is led by one Brian Chanda Mubanga who, in 2010, was appointed executive Director of ‘Friends of Rainka.’

Friends of Rainka is the official organisation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTs) in Zambia. It is registered as Rainka Zambia by the Patents and Registration of Companies Agency of Zambia (PACRA).

The board chairperson of Rainka Zambia works for Toyota Zambia (lady’s name withheld). Rainka is headquartered on the floor above Alpha Bar in Northmead, Lusaka.

The LGBT in Zambia has been active underground but the training in Stockholm is meant to increase their activities and possibly come out in the open.

A source told the Watchdog in an exclusive interview that the LGBT community believes that the time for them to fight for their rights publicly has come.

According to the source, the yet to be appointed Zambian ambassador to Sweden is expected to meet the activists in Sweden when she goes there.

President Michael Sata two weeks ago appointed Sherry Thole envoy to Sweden but revoked the appointment before he swore her in. He is expected to send Edith Mutale, a reverend.

‘The main purpose of the training in Sweden is to help them lobby for their rights and fight for the decriminalisation of Homosexuality in Zambia’, emphasized one of the sources.’

‘The Zambian ambassador in Stockholm has been invited to attend the final meeting of this Conference and will be there at this ending ceremony’, said one source.

According to information made public, Rainka aims to protect, advance and promote the Human Rights of Zambian sexual minorities by engaging law and policy makers in legal reform, whilst building capacity to undertake effective advocacy.

When AIDS activist Winstone Zulu died, Rainka issued a statement that ‘the Zambian LGBT Community mourns the passing of human rights activist Winstone Zulu, who died in the early hours of Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka

‘Winstone’s untimely death is a blow to the Zambian LGBT community and it is our sincere hope that the courage and tenacity of spirit that he embodied and the successes that he achieved in the movement be remembered for generations to come’, read part of the statement.

On August 3, 2010 an international organisation that supports LGBTs published the following article:

‘While Zambia undergoes a Constitution Review Process, the gay community in that country has been dealt a severe blow by the National Constitutional Conference (NCC)’s decision to adopt a clause that prohibits marriage between people of the same sex. Prior the adoption of the clause, article 47(3) of the proposed constitution provided for marriage between two people of the opposite sex who are above the age of 18 years, however on 18 February 2010 clause 5 was added to article 47 to enforce that, “marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited.”

The move has been met with outrage and has caused “fear and uncertainty in the Zambian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. Friends of Rainka an LGBTI organisation in Zambia has condemned the move by the NCC, saying it’s a direct attack against an already vulnerable community, which may overshadow any successes that the community has made to date.

“In light of these developments, Zambia continues to regress even further into an abyss of ignorance, intolerance and fear. The challenge for the LGBTI community remains civil society’s option to remain silent while such evils are being perpetrated”, Friends of Rainka stated. The NCC’s decision has come in the wake of the current persecution of the LGBTI community on the African continent where in Uganda, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill before parliament could see the execution of homosexuals if passed and the arrest of a gay couple in Malawi after their marriage as well as the recent anti-gay attacks in Kenya.’

On the current training in Sweden, the group of activists has been split in two and each group has 25 people from different backgrounds.

The two groups are further split into groups of four focused on the topics: Change that is legal, Awareness raising, Health and Empowerment of LGBT persons.

The entire training will cover topic such as human rights, international law and founding principles, protection of LGBT persons, advocacy theory and strategies, LGBT in religiously influenced societies and sex, sexuality and gender.

The Zambian team is in the group dealing with ‘Change that is legal.

During the last elections in Zambia, the issues of homosexuality was a campaign issue with some politicians accusing others of planning to legalise homosexuality once they ascend to power. Such politicians were accused of getting money from pro-gay organisations.

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