Kamala Harris’ Visit to Africa: Revisiting Roots and Advocating for LGBTQ+ Rights in a Continent Where Homosexuality is Criminalized
US Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent Africa tour has brought her back to the continent where she spent time as a child, but this time as a high-ranking US government official. During her visit to Zambia, she encountered a different city from the one she remembers as a child. Zambia is now struggling with the burden of a nearly-impossible Chinese debt, political misrule, and stagnant gender rights issues.
As part of her agenda in Africa, Harris has been pushing for the promotion of human rights, including the rights of LGBTQ+ people. In her speech in Ghana, she emphasized her support for the development of LGBTQ+ rights in Africa, stating that it is a human rights issue. However, Zambia, like many African countries, has refused to decriminalize homosexuality and promote LGBTQ+ rights.
The law that criminalizes homosexuality in Zambia was enacted in 1931 as part of the colonial state’s tendency to adopt legislation from London. After gaining independence, successive Zambian governments have preserved it on the statutes as part of “their religion or culture,” and many Zambians believe that homosexuality is a Western phenomenon and an imposition on their values system.
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has reiterated Zambia’s stance against homosexuality, assuring the nation that his government will continue to uphold the law forbidding such “unnatural acts.” Speaking to over 400 clergy members in Chingola on March 14, he emphasized that Zambia would remain “a Christian nation” and that this is integral to the country’s identity.
Zambia is not the only African country that has refused to repeal laws outlawing homosexuality. Uganda, for instance, recently adopted a new law banning identifying as LGBTQ+ and related identities. The law also targets the media and civil societies perceived to promote the LGBTQ+ agenda. The adoption of the Bill, which is awaiting the signature of President Yoweri Museveni, has drawn strong criticism from Washington, with the Joe Biden administration warning of possible consequences if the law is enacted.
Harris’ visit to Zambia highlights the challenges that African countries face in promoting LGBTQ+ rights, as well as the broader struggle for human rights in the continent. Despite the opposition from African leaders and religious groups, the US government has remained steadfast in its support for LGBTQ+ rights, and Harris’ visit to Africa signals the country’s continued commitment to promoting human rights in the region.
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