FORMER president of Botswana Festus Mogae has urged President Rupiah Banda’s government not to criminalise homosexuality and sex work because that would make the fight against HIV/AIDS difficult.
And President Rupiah Banda said he understood the need not to criminalise homosexuals.
Speaking when he led a group of prominent Africans that include Dr Kenneth Kaunda, former Vice-President of Uganda Dr Speciosa Wandira and former chairperson of Kenya’s National AIDS Control Prof Mirriam Were, who are calling themselves Champions of an HIV-Free Generation, Mogae said there was no need to enact laws that criminilise homosexuals and sex workers.
He explained that the Botswana constitution criminalized homosexuality and sex work but since he left office he had been arguing with the government to repeal the law.
Mogae said over the last three years nobody had been prosecuted for being homosexuals or sex workers in Botswana.
Mogae said there was no need to discriminate and stigmatise homosexuals and sex workers because they were part of the society.
In response, President Banda said it was difficult for him when it came to the laws, whether or not to permit homosexuality in the Zambian society.
“What is worse is that our cooperating partners, who are much more influential than us because of their money will influence, they actually glorify it, they talk to our young people and making them believe that homosexuality is a human right and that if you appear to speak against it then you are a reactionary and you don’t understand the world etcetera etcetera,” said President Banda.
“But hearing it from the position of the Champions in the fight against AIDS then you understand why we should not criminalise them, understand them and at the same time try and sensitize our children, young people.”
Northmead Assemblies of God overseer Bishop Joshua Banda, who is also National AIDS Council (NAC) chairperson, said it must be made clear that the Champions of an HIV-Free Generations did not come to Zambia to promote homosexuality.
“We must be very careful, especially my colleagues behind me journalists that we must be extremely careful on how we project this because we have not come here to promote that. Except that they are saying, ‘these are the areas where we really need to discuss’. It’s very strong on my side. We must be able to see the side of the church, how the church should respond to this. What the churches have done,” said Bishop Banda.
“There is nothing that prevents those who may be for instance homosexual; there is nothing that requires that they disclose how they got the HIV infection. In that sense, we think that there is a slight misplacement in the way some of the international partners are projecting it. But I really like the dialogue aspect from the approach of the Champions. I think we must listen to the people.”
And speaking when Champions of an HIV-Free Generation met Speaker of the National Assembly Amusaa Mwanamwambwa, Mogae urged African governments to aim for zero tolerance on the HIV transmission from mother to child.
He said children should not have a misfortune of being born with a virus when that could be prevented.
Mogae, who cited Botswana which had reduced the mother to child HIV transmission rate from 40 to about four per cent, further said AIDS was no longer a killer disease but a chronic disease because it is preventable.