In this series we introduce you to IAM’s regional partners. The team from Zambia’s ZANERELA+ tells us about the work the organisation is undertaking to tackle the continued discrimination faced by the LGBTI community in Zambia on multiple levels, and the support they have received from IAM.
As in so many countries in Southern Africa, people living with HIV (PLHIV) and LGBTI individuals in Zambian society, places of worship, neighborhoods and families continue to face discrimination and rejection, not only by society but especially by faith communities. LGBTI people are told by their families that they “do not belong to them”; they are told by faith communities that “they are desperate sinners” and by government that “they are criminals”.
Zambia is a predominantly Christian country, and as in many countries heteronormative and patriarchal interpretations of the Bible have historically meant that the church has supported legislation to prohibit same sex relationships and punish “offenders”. ZANERELA+, the Zambian Chapter for the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV and AIDS (INERELA+) was formed in 2005. The organisation recognizes the importance of engaging with religious leaders since they are often the source of stigma and discrimination within communities as opinion leaders, policy makers and role models. It is equally important to create a safe environment for PLHIV and LGBTI individuals to journey with their spirituality and sexuality without being stigmatized and discriminated against within Zambian society.
ZANERELA+ works to empower religious leaders to use their positions of respect within their faith communities in ways that break the silence, challenge stigma and provide delivery of evidenced -based prevention, care and treatment services to PLHIV. The organisation works in 7 out of the 10 regions in Zambia (Lusaka, Livingstone, Chipata, Mansa, Kitwe, Mongu and Kasama). They work closely with partners in the other three regions to give them national coverage.