LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In an escalating row over LGBT+ rights, Zambia has criticized the United States after a senior U.S. diplomat condemned the southern African country for sentencing two men to 15 years in prison for gay sex.
Zambia’s high court last week jailed the men for engaging in sexual relations “against the order of nature”, a move the U.S. ambassador said was horrifying.
A major beneficiary of U.S. aid, Zambia now plans to send a protest letter to Washington over the remarks by Ambassador Daniel Foote, according to local media.
Zambia receives hundreds of millions of dollars every year in financial support from the United States, some of which goes toward fighting HIV/AIDS.
When asked at a press briefing on Monday whether the U.S. government would cut aid to Zambia, Foote said: “I want to give the government of Zambia the opportunity to renew and rejuvenate its partnership with the U.S.”
Foote said he had canceled an appearance at a World AIDS Day event on Tuesday after receiving threats.
African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.
Uganda announced plans for a bill that would impose the death penalty for gay sex in October but later backtracked after major aid donors said they were monitoring the situation.
The U.S. State Department did not respond to questions about whether it had received an official letter from Zambia.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu said in an interview with Sky News on Monday that local laws and culture prohibited homosexuality and that he would not repeal the law.
“If you want to be tying your aid to homosexuality... If that is how you will bring your aid then I am afraid the West can leave us alone in our poverty,” Lungu said.
Reporting by Rachel Savage Editing by Tom Finn Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org