Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Zambia: Government treatment of homosexuals in Zambia, and its attitudes towards gay organisations; protection or support available from human rights groups

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 8 April 2003
Citation / Document Symbol ZMB41458.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Zambia: Government treatment of homosexuals in Zambia, and its attitudes towards gay organisations; protection or support available from human rights groups, 8 April 2003, ZMB41458.E, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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.

Although there are approximately 500,000 homosexuals in Zambia (The Data Lounge 17 Sept. 1998), homosexuality is an illegal practice in Zambia (Afronet Feb. 1999; The Data Lounge 17 Sept. 1998).

The Minister of Home Affairs, quoted in The Data Lounge, said that homosexuality is "'unAfrican'," and according to Zambian law, a felony that carries a minimum prison sentence of 14 years (17 Sept. 1998). The Data Lounge is a gay and lesbian information website created in June 1995 and owned by Mediapolis, in New York (Mediapolis n.d.).

An urgent action report issued by the International Federation of Human Rights League (FIDH) points out that homosexuality is a criminal offence that carries a sentence of up to five years imprisonment (29 Sept. 1998). The report expressed concern that the government threatened to arrest activists working for the promotion and protection of the homosexual community (FIDH 29 Sept. 1998). "Given the negative attitudes of society toward homosexuality," any arrests would pose a threat to the "physical and psychological integrity" of the activists (ibid.). The report appealed to the government of Zambia to "more generally" conform to the international treaties that it had ratified, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Conventions (ibid.).

The Zambia Human Rights Report for 1998 indicates that a Zambian man, Francis Chisambisha, was "expelled from Chipembi Farm College where he was pursuing a course in agriculture," after publicly acknowledging his homosexual status to the Zambian newspaper, The Post (Afronet Feb. 1999).

The formation of an organisation called Lesbians, Gays and Transgender Persons Association (LEGATRA), "attracted huge protests from some sections of the Zambian community" (ibid.). Furthermore, "President Chiluba repeatedly lashed out at the group, describing homosexuality as immoral and ungodly" (ibid.).

Sources consulted by the Research Directorate state that Zambian authorities threatened to arrest members and leaders of LEGATRA if they insisted on officially registering their group (Afronet Feb.1999; AI 1999, 368; FIDH 29 Sept. 1998; LGIRTF Fall 1998). In addition, Vice-President Lieutenant-General Christon Tembo banned the publication of information about "'gay activities'" (AI 1999, 368).

Church leaders in Southern Africa reportedly condemned the Norwegian embassy in Lusaka in late 1998 when it was revealed that the ambassador to Zambia had made a donation of $1,000 to fund a campaign enabling homomosexuals to fight for their rights (AANA 11 Jan.1999).

Both the South African Press Association (SAPA) and Behind the Mask, "a website on gay and lesbian affairs in (southern) Africa" (n.d.), claim that the Registrar of Societies has refused to register LEGATRA (SAPA 30 Mar. 2001; Behind the Mask n.d.). It is in part because of this that

Legatra has been unable to raise money to create a public awareness campaign and challenge the ban on gay-male sex ... Gay men are routinely arrested. The cases are usually dropped for lack of evidence or settled out of court. Legatra's president has been gay-bashed twice. In one incident, one of his eyes was permanently damaged (Behind the Mask n.d.).

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 to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Afronet. February 1999, "The Media and Freedom of Expression." The Zambian Human Rights Report 1998. [Accessed 3 Apr. 2003]

All Africa News Agency (AANA). 11 January 1999. "Church annoyed by Norway's Support for Homosexuals." [Accessed 1 Apr. 2003]

Amnesty International (AI). 1999. Annual Report 1999. London: Amnesty International.

Behind the Mask. "Zambia." [Accessed 1 Apr. 2003]

The Data Lounge. 17 September 1998. "Gay Group Struggles for Life in Zambia." [Accessed 1 Apr. 2003]

International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH). 29 September 1998. The Observatory- Urgent Action. "Fear of Arrest - Harassment of Activists." : Paris (001/9809/OBS 064) [Accessed 1 Apr. 2003]

Lesbian and Gay Immigration Rights Task Force. Fall 1998. "World News in Brief. Zambia." [Accessed 1 Apr. 2003]

Mediapolis. n.d. "Clients: The Data Lounge." [Accessed 4 Apr.2003]

South African Press Association (SAPA). 29 March 2001. "Africa Blatantly Violate Rights to Association and Assembly." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Confidential

Country Reports

Horn of Africa Bulletin

IRB Databases

Keesing's Record of World Events


New African

Resource Centre. Country File. Zambia.

Internet sites including:


Search engines including:


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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