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Zambia: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; (2005 - July 2007)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 10 October 2007
Citation / Document Symbol ZMB102571.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Zambia: Treatment of homosexuals by society and government authorities; (2005 - July 2007), 10 October 2007, ZMB102571.E, available at: [accessed 19 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Zambia (Global Rights/IGLHRC July 2007; UK 21 June 2007). Sections 155 and 157 of the Zambian Penal Code Act of 1995, Chapter 87, criminalize same-sex conduct between consenting adults (Global Rights/ILGA July 2007, 3).

Section 155 states that

Any person who

a] has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature or


c] permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years. [As amended by No. 26 of 1933] (ibid.)

Section 157 states that

Any male person who, whether in public or in private, commits any act of gross indecency with another male person, or procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any male person with himself or with another male person, whether in public or in private, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for five years. [As amended by No. 26 of 1933] (ibid.; BTM n.d.a)

Although the Zambian Penal Code does not specifically mention women, Chapter 87, Section 155 also pertains to lesbians, according to Behind the Mask (BTM) (n.d.a) - "a non-profit media organisation publishing a news website intended for gay and lesbian affairs in Africa" that was launched in 2000 (BTM n.d.b). Information regarding the application of the law to lesbians could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

A report produced by Global Rights, a United States (US)-based human rights advocacy group with offices around the world (Global Rights July 2006) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), "a US-based, non-governmental organization (NGO)" (IGLHRC n.d.), - states the following:

The retention of codes that criminalize sexual relationships between same-sex consenting adults has a devastating impact on same-sex practicing people in Zambia. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in Zambia live in constant fear of arbitrary detention, discrimination in education, employment, housing, and access to services, and extortion - all buttressed by the existence of sections 155-157 and lack of specific legal protections for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people] under Zambian law. (Global Rights/IGLHRC July 2006, 4)

According to BTM, a "lot of gay men have been arrested and charged" in Zambia (n.d.a). However, the same source states that in most cases charges are dropped or the cases are settled out of court (BTM n.d.a).

African Veil - a Web site run by a non-profit organization that aims to reduce the isolation felt by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people living in Africa (n.d.a) - published an article written by a man claming to be a gay Zambian police officer (n.d.b). The author states that he participated as a police officer in an operation undertaken by several officers and a Zambian who posed as a homosexual (African Veil n.d.b). The operation involved setting up a gay tourist, catching him in a homosexual act, threatening to take him into custody and then extracting a bribe in exchange for his release (ibid.). The Global Rights/IGLHRC report states that the "extortion of gay men remains a major problem and is often conducted with police participation" (July 2007, 4). The same report states that it is common for blackmailers to target gay men, causing the gay men to experience "financial ruin, depression, and ostracism from family and community" (July 2007, 4; see also African Veil n.d.b). According to the African Veil article, although gay foreigners are most frequently targeted, everyone who is homosexual could fall "into the trap" of being set up by those "on the look out for gay guys" (African Veil n.d.b).

In 2006, Zambian Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha was quoted as saying in a televised broadcast, "'As long as Zambia remains a Christian nation, neither gay marriages nor homosexuality would be entertained in Zambia, even under the guise of human rights'" (DPA 22 Dec. 2006). Various religious leaders, as well as a renowned Zambian herbalist, were also quoted as expressing views against homosexuality (ibid.). A researcher with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) suggests that "state-sponsored homophobia" in southern African states, including Zambia, has been used by governments to distract populations from unpopular policies or social problems (ICTJ 7 Feb. 2006; see also HRW 2003, 6). ICTJ is a "human rights organization that assists countries pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse" (ICTJ n.d.).

African Veil published an article by a gay Zambian who said that it is not possible for gay men and lesbians to hold meetings "for fear of being arrested and facing persecution" (African Veil 11 Oct. 2006). When organizers attempted to officially register a gay civil society organization in 1998, government officials publicly said organizers would be risking arrest if they pursued the matter (Global Rights/IGLHRC July 2007; HRW/IGLHRC 2003, 39). Information on subsequent attempts to register gay organizations could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


African Veil [Zambia]. 11 October 2006. "Zambia's MP Son Speaks Out on his Homosexuality." [Accessed 21 June 2007].
_____. N.d.a. "About African Veil." [Accessed 26 October 2007]
_____. N.d.b. "Police Oppression in Zambia." [Accessed 27 June 2007]

Behind the Mask (BTM) [Johannesburg]. N.d.a. "Zambia." [Accessed 21 June 2007]
_____. N.d.b. "Who We Are." [Accessed 26 October 2007]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 22 December 2006. Fred Chela. "State and Church Vows Never to Tolerate Gay Marriage." [Accessed 21 June 2007]

Global Rights / International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). July 2007. Stephano Fabeni, Cary Alan Johnson and Joel Nana."The Violations of the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons in Zambia." [Accessed 11 July 2007]

Global Rights. July 2006. "About Global Rights." [Accessed 26 July 2007]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) / International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). 2003. More Than a Name: State Sponsored Homophobia and Its Consequences in Southern Africa. [Accessed 21 June 2007]

International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). 7 February 2007. Kelli Muddell. "Sexual Minorities Study: LGBT Issues and Transitional Justice." Paper presented at the Open Society Institute Forum: Gender and Transitional Justice, New York City. [Accessed 25 July 2007]
_____. N.d.. "Press Inquiries." [Accessed 21 Sept. 2007]

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 24 Sept. 2007]

United Kingdom (UK). 20 June 2007. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. "Zambia." [Accessed 21 June 2007]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: African Veil did not respond to a request for information within the time constraints for this Response.

Publications, including: Human Rights Quarterly.

Internet sites, including: Afrol News, Amnesty International, Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l'homme (FIDH), Gay Times, Globalgayz, Mambaonline, Panos London Online,, United States Department of State.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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