The United States has condemned Zambia following the arrest of four women accused of promoting gay rights during a march on sexual and gender based violence.
The United States Embassy in Zambia in a statement on Wednesday expressed solidarity with the four women who were arrested by Zambia Police.
Last weekend, Sistah Sistah Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on promoting women’s rights and girls’ sanitary care, conducted a march to raise awareness about sexual and gender based violence in Zambia. Police approved the march and provided security.
However, Police on Wednesday accused the foundation of using the march to promote homosexuality. The police arrested four women for allegedly organizing an unlawful assembly and giving false information to public officers. The four were later released on bail and are expected to appear in court in the coming days.
Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Jack Mwiimbu told VOA on Wednesday that the Zambian Government does not promote LGBTQ rights.
“I wish to warn members of the public not to allow and to flout the law deliberately by taking advantage of the prevailing environment that allow for freedom of expression and assembly,” Mwiimbu said.
However, in a statement on Wednesday, the United States Embassy said it was a small number of activists who used language or carried symbols that may not be accepted by everyone.
“Regrettably, rather than protect and defend those who stepped forward and spoke out calling for safety from physical and emotional harm, Zambian authorities instead chose to punish those they did not agree with,’ the Embassy said.
It then advised the Zambian authorities to focus on the core issue which is ending sexual and gender based violence.
The Sistah Sistah Foundation also released a statement denying that the march was a forum for championing homosexuality.
The foundation said the march was meant to highlight sexual violence against women but conversations online have focused on false information to the detriment of the cause of the march.
The organisation also expressed concern over the arrest of its members.
“Women’s rights activists have been persecuted for organizing to stand against violence women and girls face,” the organisation said.
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