FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, is in a unique position to place pressure on homophobic countries to improve treatment of LGBT citizens.
Soccer unites countries—and even continents—and can have more sway than resolutions or threats to cut off aid.
In Zambia, where same-sex acts are punishable by up to 14 years in prison, the national football federation is balking about incorporating FIFA’s anti-bias policy, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
While members of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) say that would put them at odds with Zambian law, a human rights activist has found a loophole.
“The law in Zambia does not criminalize homosexuality,”professor Landilani Banda told the BBC.
“What the law criminalizes is sodomy… when a person has sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex. In light of the above it’s perfectly alright for FAZ to include a clause which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Of course, even if Banda convinces the federation to sign, it would be a small victory in a country where only 2% of the population think homosexuality is morally acceptable.
In 2013, First Lady Christine Kaseba said “the silence around issues of men who have sex with men should be stopped and no one should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
FIFA has been criticized for scheduling the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar, two countries with poor records on LGBT rights.
For more on international LGBT rights, visit Logo’s Global Ally page.