Amnesty International has urged authorities in Zambia to release two men who were arrested and charged on allegations of sodomy earlier this week.

Zambian police arrested and charged a gay couple after the family of one of the men reported the relationship to authorities. AFP reported that James Mwape, 20, and Philip Mubiana, 21, are from the northern town of Kapiri Mposhi.

Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s Zambia researcher said: “The arrest of the two men solely for their real or perceived sexual orientation amounts to discrimination and it is in violation of their rights to freedom of conscience, expression, and privacy.

“Laws criminalizing homosexuality and gender identity criminalize the legitimate exercise of these human rights, which are protected in treaties ratified by Zambia, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

Amnesty sources said that the men had low levels of literacy, and did not have a good understanding of the Zambian legal system or personal rights.

The authorities had reportedly subjected the men to anal examinations without their consent, and had possibly forced them to make confessions in order to speed up the trial.

“Anal examinations conducted to ‘prove’ same-sex conduct are scientifically invalid, and furthermore, if they were conducted without the men’s consent, contravene the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment under international law,” said Simeon Mawanza.

“Such examinations are in every case highly invasive, abusive, and profoundly humiliating. In addition, the doctors who conduct these examinations, by doing so forcibly, violate their ethical obligations towards people they examine. Any persons subjected to such abuse should be afforded appropriate remedy and must be protected from further abuse.”

Some reports suggest that the two men were arrested on 25 April and were detained before being released on bail on 2 May. Other reports suggest that they have pleaded not guilty, but they remain in detention. They are due to face court on 22 May.

“Amnesty International considers individuals imprisoned solely for their consensual sexual relationship in private as prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release,” Mawanza continued.

Last month, gay rights activist and HIV campaigner Paul Kasonkomona was arrested following a live television appearance in which he argued for same-sex relationships to be decriminalised in the African nation.