Zambia Police have summoned the organizers of Sistah Sistah Foundation Zambia’s march-past event, which was held on March 4, 2023, at the Rugby Club in the Show Grounds. The foundation had applied for a permit to hold the event to raise awareness against women and girls’ sexual and gender-based violence.
“The Sistah Sistah Foundation Zambia applied for a permit to hold a March-past within Lusaka District to raise awareness against women and girls sexual and Gender-Based Violence,” said Deputy Police Public Relations Officer Danny Mwale. “The permit was granted considering that issues of sexual and GBV are on the increase as detected by the Police Victim Support Unit. As such, this was deemed to be a noble cause by the Police.”
However, during the march-past event, the conveners exhibited a different agenda from the one for which they sought a permit. The agenda seemed to highlight issues of LGBTQ (homosexuality). This goes against the laws of Zambia, where practicing homosexuality is a crime punishable by law under Sections 155 and 157 of the Penal Code Chapter 87.
“In addition, Zambia is a Christian nation, and the government does not champion homosexuality,” added Mwale. “It is in this vain that the Zambia Police Service has summoned the conveners of the March-past in order to ascertain why the event was turned into a forum for championing homosexuality.”
The conveners of the event have been summoned by the police to explain their actions. “We want to know why they decided to use the event to promote homosexuality, which is against our laws and culture,” said Mwale. “We also want to remind the public that freedom of expression and assembly does not mean that they can break the law.”
The incident has sparked a debate in the country, with some people supporting the conveners’ right to freedom of expression and assembly, while others argue that they should have adhered to the original agenda for which they sought a permit.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression and assembly, but this does not mean that they can break the law,” said Lusaka resident Jane Banda. “The organizers of the march-past should have stuck to their original agenda, which was to raise awareness against women and girls’ sexual and gender-based violence.”
Others, however, feel that the conveners had a right to express their views on LGBTQ issues. “We live in a democracy, and everyone has the right to express their views, even if they are not popular,” said human rights activist David Mwila. “We should not be afraid to have conversations about LGBTQ issues, and the organizers of the march-past should be commended for starting this conversation.”
It is unclear at this time what the consequences for the conveners of the event may be. The police have warned members of the public not to deliberately flout the law by taking advantage of the prevailing environment that allows for freedom of expression and assembly. The debate around the incident is likely to continue in the coming days and weeks.