US State Department via Flickr

Daniel Foote hit out at a 15-year jail sentence for a gay couple convicted of homosexuality.

Last week, the US ambassador to Zambia, Daniel Foote, criticised the country after it imposed a 15-year jail sentence on a gay couple. In particular, he focused on sentences regarding poaching, which are lower than those given to people convicted of homosexuality.

Since his comments, Zambian officials, including the president and foreign minister have hit out at him, with the foreign minister saying Foote’s comments were “tantamount to questioning the Zambian constitution.”

And Foote had to pull out of World AIDS Day events scheduled for Tuesday (3 December) due to threats made against him on social media. “I was shocked at the venom and hate directed at me and my country, largely in the name of ‘Christian’ values, by a small minority of Zambians,” he explained in a published statement.

“I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that Christianity meant trying to live like our Lord, Jesus Christ. I am not qualified to sermonize, but I cannot imagine Jesus would have used bestiality comparisons or referred to his fellow human beings as ‘dogs,’ or ‘worse than animals;’ allusions made repeatedly by your countrymen and women about homosexuals.

“Targeting and marginalizing minorities, especially homosexuals, has been a warning signal of future atrocities by governments in many countries.  In my heart, I know that real Zambian values don’t merit your country’s inclusion on that list, ever.”

The ambassador also hit out at claims that he was interfering with Zambia’s constitution, saying: “I just re-read Zambia’s entire constitution, which I believe is an admirable document, and there is no reference to ‘having sex against the order of nature,’ or of homosexuality for that matter.

“Your constitution does declare, however, to uphold ‘a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion; the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person;’ to ‘respect the diversity of the different communities of Zambia;’ and to ‘promote and protect the rights and freedoms of a person.’

“It is up to Zambian citizens and the courts to decide if your laws correspond to your constitution, but your constitution itself provides every person the right to freedom and expression of conscience and belief.”

And drawing reference to the event he was forced to pull out of, Daniel Foote said: “Unfortunately, stigma and discrimination remain as our biggest mutual challenges in eradicating the AIDS epidemic.

“Discriminatory and homophobic laws, under the false flags of Christianity and culture, continue to kill innocent Zambians, many of whom were born with the virus.

“Your citizens are terrified of being outed as HIV-positive, because of the inaccurate and archaic associations between HIV and homosexuality.”

In an interview with Sky News, Zambia’s president defended the laws against homosexuality, saying: “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.”

He added: “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.”

It should be noted that same-sex behaviour can be found in over 1,500 animal species, including animals like lions or penguins.