A draft constitution from the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ), including a clause that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, has faced opposition from the government, churches and the wider public.
The clause would bring Zambian football in line with FIFA regulations that look to footballing bodies to promote equality and to be inclusive of people irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. However, the instructions from FIFA causes conflict with religious beliefs in a devoutly Christian nation.
Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, gay conversion therapy has not been banned and there is no protection against discrimination of LGB people within the workplace. Zambian President, Edgar Lungu, has regularly spoken out against LGB rights and believes that the draft constitution from FAZ would undermine the Christian ideals and laws of his country.
The FAZ general secretary, Ponga Liwewe, has said that the clause will not go against the country’s law, highlighting that the document is still firmly in the draft stage. It is worrying that Mr Liwewe has emphasised that the constitution is still in draft; this suggests that the important steps forward to promote equality could be changed or taken out altogether.
“Zambia is a Christian nation and any instructions from FIFA which will conflict with Christianity are not welcome,” former FAZ executive committee member Masha Chilemena told AFP.
“The FAZ cannot go against what is stipulated in the law of the land.
“If FIFA is to impose sanctions on Zambia, we will play in the local league.”
International Federation of Christian Churches (IFCC) president Simon Chihana added, “We are a blessed nation and we cannot allow an individual or institution to bring the happenings of Sodom and Gomorrah here.
The footballing community has an ability to bring groups of people together from different nations and has an important part to play in supporting movements to promote equality for all.
Football Associations in countries such as Zambia have, arguably, a more important role. In over 30 countries in Africa homosexuality is illegal. FAZ have an opportunity to increase awareness of LGB issues and educate the Zambian public.
If upheld, the clause banning discrimination based on sexual orientation could be a small step towards the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in African countries.
[Edit – The ‘T’ has been removed from ‘LGBT’ for this piece by the editor, Lee Hurley. This article is about protecting sexualities from discrimination. As T stands for ‘transgender’ and is a gender not a sexuality, Lee felt it was not appropriate to include it in this story as it simply furthers the misunderstanding of transgender people. Please feel free to contact him on Twitter if you wish to discuss this matter further. As a trans man with 25+ years in the LGBT community, he will be only too happy to discuss it with you]