Two gay men in Zambia were arrested for having gay sex in a private hotel room, and the High Court of Zambia has now sentenced the men to 15 years in prison for being intimate behind closed doors.
The south-eastern African country, which retains its colonial-era laws, offers no legal protections for LGBTQ people.
The men, Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba, booked the room in 2017. According to reports, a female hotel worker peeked through a window and saw the men being intimate.
Last week, a judge dismissed an appeal against their convictions for crimes against the order of nature (the legal term for gay sex in Zambia) sentencing them both to 15 years in prison.
The U.S. ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, said in a statement: “I was personally horrified to read about the sentencing of two men, who had a consensual relationship, which hurt absolutely no one.”
Foote implored the government of Zambia to review the case but received a fervent backlash for speaking out.
In an official embassy statement, Foote announced he was forced to cancel attending World AIDS Day events due to threats against him.
“I was shocked at the venom and hate directed at me and my country, largely in the name of “Christian” values, by a small minority of Zambians,” wrote the ambassador. “I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that Christianity meant trying to live like our Lord, Jesus Christ. I am not qualified to sermonize, but I cannot imagine Jesus would have used bestiality comparisons or referred to his fellow human beings as “dogs,” or “worse than animals;” allusions made repeatedly by your countrymen and women about homosexuals.”
Foote’s official statement also made mention of the $500 million in annual assistance Zambia receives from the United States saying, “In these countries were we contribute resources, this includes partnering in areas of mutual interest, and holding the recipient government accountable for its responsibilities under this partnership.”
In an interview with Sky News, President Lungu defended his country’s homophobic laws saying, “Even animals don’t do it, so why should we be forced to do it?…because we want to be smart, civilized and advanced and so on.”
“If there are such countries which will allow bestiality, let them do it but not here,” he added.
Ah, yes – the old ‘compare being gay to having sex with animals’ argument. How fresh, how new…
Zambia’s president told Sky News his government will officially complain to the Trump administration over Foote’s remarks.