Amnesty urges Zambia to drop charges against men accused of same-sex conduct

Amnesty International (AI) has asked Zambia to immediately drop the charges against two men accused of same-sex sexual conduct and release them from prison unconditionally.

Amnesty, in a statement issued here ahead of a court hearing Thursday, said the arrest of anyone for their real or perceived sexual orientation violates the fundamental principle of non-discrimination which underlines human rights law.

“It is high time that individuals stopped being persecuted because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Human rights are about the dignity and equality of all people,” Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s Zambia researcher, said Wednesday.

James Mwape and Philip Mubiana, both 22 years old, will appear in court on 12 September in the Zambian central town of Kapiri Mposhi for a remand hearing. They have been in custody since 6 May, facing two counts each of committing offences “against the order of nature”.

They were initially arrested on 25 April and detained until 2 May when they were granted bail. After their release, they were arrested for the second time just four days later following another report to police by a neighbour.

Amnesty International said it considers the two men prisoners of conscience as they were arrested under laws criminalising consensual, private, same-sex sexual conduct. Such laws contravene international human rights law.

The organisation said it is also troubled by reports that on two occasions in May, government doctors forcibly conducted anal exams on both Mwape and Mubiana.

“Anal exams are inherently invasive, abusive, profoundly humiliating and conducted for reasons based purely on discrimination,” said Mawanza.

“This procedure is not only scientifically illegitimate, it is also a form of sexual assault and is tantamount to torture. Any “findings” that result from it cannot be used as evidence in a trial against the victims.”

The two last appeared in court on 28 August.

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