Responding to a question of an STV reporter regarding concerns over lack of LGBTI rights in Zambia, Dr. Guy Scott said: “Scotland introduced gay marriage last week, so therefore Zambia must suddenly? You weren’t complaining about it two weeks ago but now Zambia has to follow suit? It’s not right!
“It’s an unreasonable expectation. You could look at it and say, actually Zambians care more about poverty, they care more about disease and care more about their children’s education, and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on. You know politics, David Livingston would have been shot within two days in Africa if he wasn’t a politician.”
Dr. Guy Scott, the Vice President of Zambia, who was born in the Zambian city of Livingstone to a wealthy Scottish colonial family from Lanarkshire, made the statement while visiting Glasgow in support of Zambia’s Commonwealth Games team and exploring his Scottish roots.
There has been an ongoing crackdown on LGBTI people in Zambia since 2011, as both politicians and the media using anti-gay discourse to gain electoral votes and attention.
Numerous cases of arrest, harassment and violence by both the public and authorities have been reported and documented. LGBTI people are subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, “discrimination in education, employment, housing, and access to services”, and extortion–often with the knowledge or participation of law enforcement authorities.
Same-sex sexual activity is illegal for both males and females in Zambia and punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment, which classified such acts under rape and bestiality.
Zambia has so far failed to repeal these anti-LGBTI laws that it inherited from its former colonial master, the British Empire.
In fact, the U.S. State Department reports that enforcement of anti-LGBT laws has increased in recent years and human rights activists say there is growing intolerance for LGBT people in Zambian society.
The Zambian Minister of Justice recently accused LGBTI groups of working to “destroy the cultural fabric of this country” and the Minister of Home Affairs stated that the “government does not support homosexuality.”
In 2013, a gay couple was arrested on sodomy charges and held without bail for over a year before finally being acquitted.
The country was arguably the largest recipient of Fundamentalist Evangelical missionaries during British colonial times, a legacy left by the Scottish evangelist and colonialist Dr. David Livingstone, having a particularly negative impact on social attitudes towards LGBTI people.
A recent survey revealed that 98% of Zambians find homosexuality to be morally unacceptable, a figure even worse than Uganda (89%).
Speaking with KaleidoScot, Chalwe Charles Mwansa, a Zambian human rights defender, said: “It’s sad that a the Vice President of a developing country like Zambia could issue such a statement especially during the commonwealth games. These are supposed to be based on equality for all and non-discrimination including against sexual orientation or gender identity.
“These are, after-all, some of the tenants that the commonwealth games are trying to promote in order to endorse good sportsmanship.
“The consequences of that statement coming from the Vice President are that it negatively risks causing a further backlash towards the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI Zambians, by boosting support for tough measures that reinforces homophobia and transphobia.
“Furthermore his anti-gay sentiments present an even greater affront to the dignity of the LGBT Zambians. Not only are LGBT communities denied the right to engage into activities, which from a part of their experience as human beings, his comments further advocate for exclusion from the rest the Zambian community.
“I believe at the root of whom we are as a people, as Zambians is the true spirit of Ubuntu, that advocates for the basic precept that we are all equal, and that fairness and social justice, are the foundation of we all subscribe towards living fulfilled lives as African.”
Commenting on Dr. Scott’s statement, Scott Cuthbertson, The Equality Network’s Community Development Coordinator, said: “Like any government, the government of Zambia has to set priorities.
“But combating poverty, and ending prosecutions for consensual same-sex relationships, are not incompatible objectives – quite the opposite.
“We urge Vice President Scott to listen to the voices of Zambian LGBTI people and other Zambian human rights defenders. As a man proud of his Scottish roots, we hope the Vice President would also share Scotland’s pride in its ongoing journey towards ending discrimination against LGBTI people.”
Speaking with KaleidoScot, Peter Tatchell, director of human rights lobby the Peter Tatchell Foundation said: “Dr Guy Scott is mistaken. No one is saying that just because Scotland has legalised same-sex marriage Zambia has to do the same. We are urging something much more basic. We hope the Zambian government will fulfil its obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights by decriminalising same-sex relationships between consenting adults in private.
“He is also wrong to suggest that the important battle against poverty in Zambia means that government cannot end the legal persecution of LGBTI people. It can do both. The decriminalisation of homosexuality costs nothing. It won’t take away funds from the anti-poverty campaign.”