A gay couple in Zambia have been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime of loving one another

Edgar Lungu president of Zambia

Two men in Zambia who were convicted under a colonial-era law for having a same-sex relationship have been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Stephen Sambo, 30, and Japhet Chataba, 38, were charged with the crime of “having sex against the order of nature” last year.

Prosecutors presented “videos and photographs” of the two men, while a hotel employee told the court she saw them having sex through a window.

Speaking about the sentencing, the country’s president Edgar Lungu told 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?”

Lungu has previously said: “Those advocating gay rights should go to hell… That issue is foreign to this country.”

According to the Associated Press, the United States ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, said he was “horrified” at the sentence.

Foote said he would not be intimidated by Zambian officials, and added that the relationship between the two men hurt no one while “meanwhile, government officials can steal millions of public dollars without prosecution”.

In response, Zambia’s foreign affairs minister Joseph Malanji said the ambassador was meddling in the southern African country’s internal affairs, and that the government would be sending a protest letter to Washington over Foote’s comments.

According to Lusaka Times, president of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Andrew Ntewewe, said at a press briefing that US ambassadors should “restrain themselves when it comes to the governance of this country or the type of laws we decide to have”.

He added: “In fact, those two misfits who were jailed to 15 years were given leniency by the sentencing judge who administered the minimum sentence of 15 years when he could have opted for the maximum life imprisonment.”

Laws criminalising homosexuality are derived from the former British colonial penal code of Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia became Zambia in 1964.