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Zambia jails gay couple for 15 years for the 'crime' of homosexuality

Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba were jailed "for crimes against the order of nature" in the capital Lusaka last Wednesday (27 November).

2019-12-02

Words: Will Stroude

A gay couple in Zambia have been jailed for 15 years for the 'crime' of homosexuality.

Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba were sentenced in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, by a high court judge last Wednesday (27 November) for "crimes against the order of nature".

According to the Human Dignity Trust, the two men were first arrested in 2017 after checking into a hotel together and being reported by staff, who claimed they witnessed them having sex.

The pair were convicted last year by Kapiri Mposhi Magistrates’ Court before appealing to the High Court, which refused to review the verdict and sentenced the pair to 15 years in prison, the maximum penalty for same-sex sexual activity in Zambia.

The move has been slammed by the US ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, who said he was "personally horrified" by the persecution of two men "who had a consensual relationship, which hurt absolutely no one."

Foote added that such sentences do "untold damage to Zambia’s international reputation by demonstrating that human rights in Zambia is not a universal guarantee."

The US ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, has slammed the sentencing of Japhet Chataba and Steven Samba

He continued: “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’."

Zambian President Edgar Lungu has remained unmoved by the criticism, however, telling Sky News: "We are saying no to homosexuality. Why should we say we are going to be civilised if we allow it... are you saying that we're very primitive now because we're frowning on homosexuality?

"Even animals don't do it, so why should we be forced to do it?... because we want to be seen to be smart, civilised and advanced and so on."

Same-sex sexual activity for people of all genders is outlawed by Sections 155 through 157 of Zambia's penal code, introduced by Britain during colonial rule.

The US Department of State's 2014 Human Rights Report on Zambia reported that "according to LGBT advocacy groups, societal violence occurred, as did societal discrimination in employment, housing, and access to education or health care…

"LGBT groups reported frequent attacks and discrimination in the neighborhoods in which they operated. Activists reported regular harassment, including threats via text message and e-mail, vandalism, stalking, and outright violence."