• Zambia is a conservative country and same-sex relationships are frowned upon and homosexual acts are illegal.
• Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba were sentenced on Wednesday by a high court judge.
The US ambassador to Zambia has condemned a 15-year jail sentence handed down to two men found guilty of "having sex against the order of nature" - the legal phrase used to describe gay sex.
Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba were sentenced on Wednesday by a high court judge.
Zambia is a conservative country and same-sex relationships are frowned upon and homosexual acts are illegal.
But US diplomat Daniel Foote has accused the authorities of having double standards when it comes to pursuing other crimes.
“I was personally horrified to read about the sentencing of two men, who had a consensual relationship, which hurt absolutely no-one," he wrote in a statement.
“Meanwhile, government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution, political cadres can beat innocent citizens for expressing their opinions with no consequences, or poachers/traffickers can kill numerous elephants, barbarically chainsaw and sell their tusks, and face a maximum of only five years imprisonment in Zambia.”
The ambassador said decisions like “this oppressive sentencing do untold damage to Zambia’s international reputation by demonstrating that human rights in Zambia is not a universal guarantee”.
“They perpetuate persecution against disenfranchised groups and minorities, such as people from other tribes or political affiliations, albinos, the disabled, our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex brothers and sisters, and anyone who is deemed ‘different’.”
Mr Foote said gay individuals continued to make exceptional contributions to society in the US and elsewhere as politicians, artists, ambassadors, business leaders, philanthropists, and friends.
“Perhaps, it’s time for Zambia to consider its outdated stance and obsolete legislation on how to treat the LGBTI community, and all others considered ‘different’,” he concluded.