The Human Rights Watch has urged authorities in Zambia to release two men who were arrested and charged on allegations of sodomy earlier in May.

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.

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. Human Rights Watch also reported that the men have been deprived of adequate food and water in detention.

“It’s bad enough that Zambia wants to prosecute these two men for homosexual acts, but to subject them to invasive examinations is just outrageous,” said Monica Tabengwa, researcher in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately drop the charges and free them, and stop bringing such cases.”

“Medical professionals participate in a miscarriage of justice when they subject people arrested for homosexuality to anal examinations,” Tabengwa said. “These invasive procedures are painful and humiliating and can be a form of torture. They should be banned immediately and evidence obtained should be declared inadmissible.”

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.

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.

The Human Rights Watch also cited the case of prominent gay rights activist in Zambia, which was postponed, as his lawyers argued that the charges brought against him were too vague and that the case should be heard by the High Court.

Paul Kasonkomona was arrested earlier this month following a live television appearance in which he argued for same-sex relationships to be decriminalised in Zambia. He was charged with ”soliciting for immoral purposes”.

Amnesty International also urged authorities in Zambia to release the men, in a statement issued last week, which condemned their treatment.