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M.D. FIRST LADY OF ZAMBIA DECRIES HOMOPHOBIA: THE START OF A SEA CHANGE?

Posted by Tim Murphy , November 13, 2013

M.D. FIRST LADY OF ZAMBIA DECRIES HOMOPHOBIA: THE START OF A SEA CHANGE?

Dr. Kaseba-Sata: “No one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

Sometimes, you hear a piece of news that makes you think, “Maybe this is the turning point.” That’s how we reacted when we heard recently that Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata, the First Lady of Zambia, said at a recent UNAIDS-hosted reception, “Silence around issues of men who have sex with men should be stopped and no one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. Rather, we should address reproductive health issues around this issue.”

Wow. This from the First Lady of a country that, like many countries in Africa (and, we might add, around the world), has a seemingly intractable level of homophobia, accompanied by discrimination, criminalization and violence against gay people. We can only imagine what power her distigmatizing words might have in the fight against HIV/AIDS in such countries. Adding to her clout, the first lady is also one of Zambia’s most recognized specialists in obstetrics and gynecology and has practiced as a physician at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka for more than 25 years.

Better yet? She told LGBTQ Zambians they could be assured as well of the support of the president, Michael Sata.

To quote the highly admiring story on this on AllAfrica.com, “the First Lady’s remarkable – and potentially game-changing – statement comes just a few days after another renowned doctor and HIV activist, Manase Phiri, championed gay rights at [a Zambian] college.” (His remarks have caused an outrage.)

Let’s hope this is the beginning of more pro-LGBTQ sentiment and actions from powerful figures in Africa. And why shouldn’t there be? Only 25 years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a top-ranking American political figure who’d have said what Dr. Kaseba-Sata said last week.

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