Zambia: Two men freed after being accused of having sex 'against the order of nature'

Today’s court decision to acquit two Zambian men accused of having consensual sex with each other because the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt is the right decision for the wrong reasons, said Amnesty International.

James Mwape and Philip Mubiana, both aged 22, were released after having been held for over a year after being charged with having sex “against the order of nature”. The judge said that the state had not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.  

The two men were first arrested on 25 April 2013, and detained until 2 May, when they were released on bail. They were arrested again on 5 May and subjected to forcible anal examinations by government doctors to “prove” their involvement in sexual activity. These examinations are tantamount to torture.  They were charged with of having sex “against the order of nature” under Section 155 of Zambia’s Penal Code.  Both men denied the charges against them.

Homosexuality is considered a crime under Zambia’s penal code, and had they been convicted, the two men would have faced at least 15 years in prison.

Amnesty International’s Zambia researcher Simeon Mawanza said: 

“It is appalling that these men have spent over a year in prison awaiting trial charged with something which should not be a crime. 

“To imprison people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation is unjust and a breach of international law. Amnesty has always regarded these men to be prisoners of conscience.” 

“Freeing the two men is the right decision, but sadly it was reached for the wrong reasons. The Zambian authorities must fulfil their obligations to respect and protect all human rights and end the persecution of individuals on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” 

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