Two men in Zambia have been jailed for 15 years after being arrested for having sex in the privacy of a hotel room more than two years ago.
Japhet Chabata and Steven Samba were first convicted of having sex “against the order of nature” by the Kapiri Mposhi Magistrates’ Court last year.
They took the matter to the Lusaka High Court which has now rejected their appeal and affirmed their 15-year prison sentence, under British colonial-era anti-LGBTIQ legislation.
“The trial court cannot be faulted and there is no basis to review or substitute the conviction and I further find that there were no irregularities by the trial court,” Judge Charles Zulu said, reported the Zambia Daily Mail newspaper.
The men were arrested in October 2017 at a lodge in Kapiri Mposhi after an employee, who saw them having sex through a window, called the police.
They were forced to undergo an anal examination, a practice internationally recognised as a form of torture, which was conducted 10 days after they allegedly had sex.
According to media reports at the time, the doctor concluded that the results of the exam “were inconsistent with the allegations, [but the doctor added that the exam] does not exclude the possibility of sodomy.”
In a statement, the US Ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, said he was “horrified” by the news. “Decisions like this oppressive sentencing do untold damage to Zambia’s international reputation by demonstrating that human rights in Zambia [are] not a universal guarantee,” he wrote.
He added that the severity of the sentence was particularly outrageous considering that “government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution.”
Chanda Kasolo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, responded via Bloomberg, asserting that the court’s decision “is the will of the Zambian people, we have to be with the people by abiding by the law.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji said he will lodge a complaint with Washington about the ambassador’s comments.
This year alone, at least four individuals in two separate cases have been arrested on homosexuality charges in Zambia, as recently as August.
In addition to the criminalisation of homosexuality, the LGBTIQ community has few legal protections in Zambia. in July, President Edgar Lungu said that he won’t agree to equal rights for gay people because these went against the nation’s Christian and cultural values.
The state has also recently cracked down on LGBTIQ expression and celebrities. In June, openly gay South African media personality Somizi Mhlongo was banned from attending an event in Lusaka because he could “tear the country apart” and undermine its morals.