My latest article, “Sexual Orientation, (Anti-)discrimination and Human Rights in a ‘Christian Nation’: The Politicization of Homosexuality in Zambia”, has just been published online in the journal Critical African Studies. This is an online publication ahead of print – the printed version will be included in a special issue on The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa, to come out later this year or next year.
Zambia has recently witnessed heated public and political debates over issues of homosexuality and gay or LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights. This article explores these debates with particular reference to the new draft constitution and the role of the Human Rights Commission (HRC). Homosexuality and LGBTI rights became heavily politicized during the constitutional review process. Discussions emerged not only about the penal code that prohibits same-sex practices, but also about the anti-discrimination clause in the constitution. The HRC explicitly warned against an inclusive formulation of this clause to prevent it from being applied to sexual orientation. Offering a critical historical and religio-political reconstruction of the politicization of homosexuality in the constitutional review process and examining the ambivalent contribution of the HRC, this article analyses these dynamics in relation to the political imagination of Zambia as a Christian nation. The article argues that the ambivalent contribution of the HRC must be understood as a complex negotiation of the moral and religious sensibilities in society, and of popular political and religious rhetoric. However, the analysis also demonstrates that the logic of the Christian nation, and its subsequent moral geography, has begun to be subverted by a marginal yet important counter-narrative.