By Charles Ngoma
The case of the gay couple that have decided to co-habit publicly in Malawi is interesting. Homosexuality in Malawi is a criminal offence and so it is in Zambia. Amnesty International publishes a world map where they colour red any country in which there are human rights abuses. Zambia is in red, not because of political prisoners but because it criminalises homosexuality.
Many developed countries no longer consider homosexuality as a criminal offence but consider this as a human rights issue. Africans tend to be conservative and traditional on this matter and many of the readers will find the practice ‘offensive’ and ‘barbaric.’ On top of this, Zambia, has declared itself a ‘christian nation.’ There is no doubt that once this issue is brought up, there will be many who will come up with an arms length of Biblical quotations in support of the ban against the practice.
Let me make it clear from the outset that I have no doubt in my mind that homosexuality is un-natural. Indeed I go further to say that its practice is morally wrong. But, what I question is whether it constitutes a criminal offence. There are at least three main questions that should be considered before an act or practice is made illegal.
First: Is it an offence to persons?
Second: Is it destructive to property?
Third: Is it an offence to the State, i.e. does it interfere with governance?
I may be mistaken, but nearly every good law must fall into one or more of theses categories. There are many things that are morally repugnant but they are not criminal offences because they fall outside these principles. Adultery is morally wrong and illegal and rightly so, because ‘another’ person is offended. So are slander, abortion and murder. Libel is an offence against a person by attacking his character. Theft is illegal too because it concerns property and persons. Treason is offence against the State. There are some illegal practices that one would not classify as immoral. For example, drink-driving and over-speeding, but there is a potential to harm another person.
So, coming back to homosexuality, can it be classified as a criminal offence? The practice is arguably immoral but should the taxpayer’s money be spent on taking these people to court and incarcerating them in prison for something that they have no natural power to overcome on their own and is between mutually consenting adults? Wouldn’t resources be better spent to understand why people come to have this alternative sexual outlook? Homosexual practice is a moral issue that one has to answer to in their heart and before their Maker.
I do not think that the State should get involved in this. It may not be long before Zambia is in the world news again with another ‘comedy of errors’ trial, just like Malawi. In actual fact, it may be that the law enforcers in Zambia are casting a blind eye to this ‘breaking of the law’ going by the Vice President Rt. Hon. G. Kunda S.C.’s statement to the House of Parliament. Homosexual practice is rife in Zambia. Issues of sexual health are not adequately tackled if we hide our heads in the sand and pretend that this does not happen. There may be a case to revisit this archaic colonial law and expunge it from our statutes.