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Ban Ki-Moon calls for gay rights in Zambia

posted 27 Feb 2012, 05:42 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 27 Feb 2012, 05:42 ]

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pushes a gay rights message during a visit to Zambia where he met with the country's former President Kenneth Kaunda.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon brought up what has often been an uncomfortable subject in most African countries while on a visit to Zambia, calling for the recognition of rights for homosexuals.
In a meeting with former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, the Secretary General said, "While there are so many people suffering from basic needs like food, water and electricity. But there's (others) whose human dignity is totally abused. One group of such people are people who are living with a different sexual orientation."

Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, a situation which has drawn increasing criticism from the UN and many Western countries.

"I believe that their (gay people) human rights have not been protected in the last maybe 1000 years. Only recently has this come to the public awareness, public debate. I think this is very encouraging that we discuss this matter. I know there are many countries, many people who are against this trend, but we have to treat them with basic human rights, basic human dignity," Ban added.

Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people remains rampant across much of the continent and activists say few Africans are openly gay, fearing imprisonment, violence and loss of jobs.

Both the United States and United Kingdom have recently warned they will use foreign aid to push for homosexuality to be decriminalized in African countries.

News of Ban's comments prompted a mixed reaction from Zambians -- one NGO called Zambia Rainbow Coalition demanded an apology from the Secretary General, saying he was "trying to force or knit into our cultural fibre, vices that are offensive and not standing with Zambians moral code".