Transgender activist Tanaka staged the protest after escaping from Chainama Mental Health Hospital (Facebook)
A Zambian transgender activist stripped naked in the capital city of Lusaka to protest against the discrimination of LGBT+ people in her country.
The transgender woman, known as Tanaka, is a LGBT+ rights activist who recently served as co-chair on the Pan Africa ILGA board. On Tuesday (July 9) she walked naked down Great East Road in Lusaka while live streaming the protest on Facebook.
Speaking to the camera, she said: “They want to put me in jail. Please tune in. There’s a naked girl on Great East Road and it’s me.”
Local media reported that Tanaka had escaped from Chainama Mental Health Hospital. Her guardians placed her there believing she had had “a mental breakdown” after she returned from South Africa to begin gender confirmation surgery.
Look at the human rights discrimination in this country. My own mother is doing this to me. You are my witnesses.
Most Zambian news reports misgendered Tanaka and incorrectly described her as “a hermaphrodite” as she has both male and female characteristics.
In the live video, she says: “Look at the human rights discrimination in this country. My own mother is doing this to me. You are my witnesses.”
Tanaka was promptly apprehended by police. Before the video ends she says: “They’re about to take me in. I’m still live. I’m still live.”
Zambian transgender activist Tanaka (Facebook)
According to Zambia Watchdog, Tanaka “wants people to understand her condition and that of others who usually commit suicide as no one understand the situation and they have to live the life of a lie.”
Rights Africa notes that as she has disappeared from public view after the protest, she is unable to answer any questions.
Only 2 percent of Zambians view homosexuality as “morally acceptable”
LGBT+ lifestyles are criminalised in Zambia, where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The legal system has remained largely unchanged since the country was a British colony, and homosexuality falls under the same laws concerning bestiality.
A 2010 survey revealed that only 2 percent of Zambians view homosexuality as morally acceptable.
The Zambian human rights researcher Reverend Kapya Kaoma says that protesting naked as Tanaka did is a Zambian tradition, citing the women’s nude protest against the government in the 90s.
More recently in 2017, Zambian women bared their breasts in protest at the incarceration of the political leader Hakainde Hichilema, known as “HH”.