In April 2013, the Zambian government asked the church to help fight what it called ‘vices’, the most notable of these being homosexuality. It has been reported that over Easter some rather brave gay couples tried to get married and have their unions officially recognised. This was enough to scare the government into action and following their request for help, a Zambia Police spokesperson promised to crack down on "homosexual activities". A gay rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, was arrested days later.
The reasons given for the need to rid society of homosexuality are nothing new: it’s not a part of Zambian culture, it’s unAfrican, it’s unChristian and it goes against Biblical law. On the one hand, opponents of gay rights are arguing that because homosexuality is alien to Zambia (it isn't), it should not be allowed and they use Christianity to back up their views. What these hypocrites don't acknowledge is that Christianity is unAfrican. It is a religion that was introduced to Africa by European colonialists and wholeheartedly embraced. Those who oppose gay rights in Zambia and throughout Africa falsely claim homosexuality as foreign to the continent, yet they use a foreign religion to back up their claims.
In dealing with homosexuality, the Zambian government has shown a complete disregard for separation of church and state. Government officials not only use their Christian faith to guide their work but actively involve the church in it. This is unfair for the non-Christians and people with no religious affiliation living in Zambia as they are forced to live under rules based on a religion they do not subscribe to. Laws developed through logical thinking, taking into consideration issues facing the modern world and human rights do better to serve the people than laws based on ancient texts whose true authors are unknown. These texts, in form of the so-called Holy Bible, contain a multitude of passages that are not at all acceptable in the modern world and yet they are held in such high esteem by a large proportion of the population, including those who make decisions that affect everyone living in Zambia.
While lawmakers and government officials may not openly admit that the Bible is unfit to guide law and policy making, it is clear that at least to some extent they do believe it is flawed. Homosexuality is illegal and one can go to jail if believed to gay. Harsh as this is, it stops short of what the Bible demands as punishment: the death penalty. The Bible states that when a virgin is raped she must marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) and yet rapists are given jail time, not sent to wedding planners. The Bible is against sex outside of marriage and it is against divorce, but people can engage in sex out of wedlock and people can get divorced without the fear of any legal ramifications.
A major problem with using the Bible, or any other religious text, to determine how to govern a country is that people often use it to get what they want rather than for the greater good. The government's targeting of gay people is not about promoting good morals as they would have us believe. It is state-sanctioned homophobia with so-called Christian values as prescribed by the Bible being used as an excuse.
There are also other instances in which people use the Bible to get what they want. For example, a new constitution is being developed in Zambia and one hot area of debate is the death penalty. Those who want it left out of the new constitution use the sixth of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) as justification for their stance. Many of those who support the retention of the death penalty use Genesis 9:6, which states that “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind”. This disagreement over the death penalty points to another problem: the Bible is full of contradictions and this makes it unsuitable for use as a guide when developing laws and policies and more generally, as a guide for living our lives.
Secularism is on the rise in much of the Western world, but in Zambia and other African countries it seems the opposite is true. Those in positions of power and whose decisions can impact millions of people cling even harder to their religions and ‘holy’ books. Despite the twisted morality and the internal inconsistencies of these books, politicians and law makers continue to believe that Bible-centred Christianity is good for creating a just and peaceful society. There is more to this situation than just the persecution of gay people. A minority group is being marginalised in the name of religion and in the future other groups can be targeted in the same way, leading to an even more unequal society.
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