Some people suspect that the recently reported marriage attempt by four same-sex couples in Zambia was a sham perpetrated by anti-gay partisans, but LBGT activists have found evidence to the contrary.
They have located and spoken briefly to one of the would-be newlyweds.
“He was too scared to meet us, as he has been receiving death threats since his name amongst many others was published in the Daily Mail,” said Chalwe Ranney, a leader at a Zambian LGBT rights group.
Last week’s attempt at registering the four same-sex marriages was reported in the Daily Mail, a national newspaper, and picked up in many online Zambian news sites.
Activists are working to verify and analyze the event, which was described for the newspaper by Henry Kapata, the Lusaka city official in charge of registering marriages. The activists went to his office, but he was too busy to meet them, Ranney said.
“I have been up all day trying to track those people,” Ranney said. “I had never heard about them nor their lovers before. But one of my colleagues recognized one of them. We tried to follow up with this person to get first-hand information on what really happened.” Ranney added:
“Though we only spoke for a brief moment via phone, he denied the exaggerated story line Mr. Kapata has given to the media — that [the young, gay Zambian men] agreed to the marriage contract in order to find a better life abroad or be sponsored into good universities abroad by their white partners.
This was purely untrue and purely based on Mr. Kapata’s own perception — thinking all gay people just engage in such practices purely for material gain.
Ranney called that misimpression about gay motivations the “belief [that] is the most detrimental of any. It is sometimes based on lack of information about what professional psychologists say.”
A number of gay rights activists considered the attempted marriages an unfortunate event that might set back efforts at establishing human rights for LGBT people in Zambia.
“Clearly it was bad strategy,” Ranney said, even though the couples’ motives were good — possibly seeking to take advantage of the increasing acceptance of gay marriage in the United states, along with the crowd of couples registering their marriages over the Easter weekend.
But if the couples had contacted local gay-rights organizations, they would have been advised about the repercussions their actions could cause, he said.
The groups have been “working with various civil societies and government partners” to improve the lives of LGBT people in Zambia, he said, but the botched marriage attempt will complicate that work.
“It pushes back our efforts,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Police Service has warned that homosexuality is a very serious offence in Zambia.
The warning comes following an article that appeared in Wednesday’s Zambia Daily Mail, edition number 080 concerning gay marriages.
Police Spokesperson, Elizabeth Kanjela, noted that the offence attracts a sentence of not less than five years imprisonment once one is convicted under Unnatural Offences of Section 155, 156 and 158 CAP 87 of the Laws of Zambia.
Ms Kanjela, therefore, indicated that anyone who will be found wanting will face the wrath of the law as the police will be vigilant on perpetrators of such a crime.
Ms Kanjela has since appealed to members of the public to report anyone found committing such a crime to any nearest police station in order to maintain sanity in communities.