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Zambian lawyers who have signed the statement of support for Chief Justice Mumba Malila explain that they do so as the country’s judicial leader has come under ‘extensive attack’. These attacks on the CJ follows remarks he made about the need to respect the ‘human rights of gay people in Zambia’.

Last week, the CJ delivered a public lecture at the University of Zambia, and during the event he was asked his views on the ‘rights of gay people’, given the national debate on this issue.

As the lawyers explain, ‘It was in this context that he shared his view’ on the subject.


His view, as he put it on that occasion, was that it is wrong to discriminate against gay persons, and that they should not be afforded fewer rights, as they don’t lose their humanity by virtue of their sexuality.

These comments were followed by media reports with sensational headlines, as well as media stories criticising the CJ. There have even been calls on social media as well as public media for him to quit office.

In their statement, however, the human rights lawyers say they support the CJ’s view that gay people ‘are entitled to all rights provided in the constitution.’ These rights, they say, include freedom of expression, assembly and association, as well as the right to privacy, equality and dignity.


The lawyers stress that these are rights that are fundamental and enjoyed by all people. They are rights that are ‘grounded on the principle of equality and non-discrimination’ and that are ‘elevated above the capricious whims of the majority’.

Therefore, they conclude, gay people don’t enjoy these rights as a ‘gift’ from the majority, ‘but rather by virtue of being human.’

The lawyers then give some examples from court decisions that show how these rights have been protected by the judiciary.

Freedom of speech

In one case, an activist appeared on TV and in his remarks, urged that homosexuality should be decriminalised in Zambia. He was then prosecuted for ‘soliciting for immoral purposes’.

The high court, however, held that joining in a debate that advocates for gay rights, doesn’t amount to soliciting for immoral purposes, and that the man was exercising his right to freedom of speech.

Another case, this time from Uganda, concerned the actions of a newspaper: it had published ‘a list of suspected gay people’ along with their home addresses, with the intention of stigmatising homosexuals in that country. ‘The Ugandan high court considered this as a violation of the dignity and privacy of gay people,’ note the Zambian human rights lawyers.


Given these examples from the courts, and given the rights in Zambia’s constitution, said the lawyers in their statement, ‘we believe the CJ simply stated the current position of constitutional rights in Zambia, echoing the basis on which rights are celebrated and enjoyed everywhere in the world.’