The situation has gone from bad to worse for the two Malawians who were arrested on December 28 for homosexuality after holding a traditional engagement ceremony two days earlier. Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman, and Steven Monjeza have pleaded not guilty to charges of “unnatural practices” and gross indecency, which carries a fourteen year prison sentence in Malawi. The two have reportedly suffered “appalling” conditions in prison, where they are being threatened with humiliating medical examinations to try to determine whether they have had sex. They also say they have been beaten by police and fellow prisoners.
Despite that, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa denied them bail yesterday, saying that the were at risk of mob violence if they were released. The couple’s lawyers rejected that claim. They are expected to go to trial on January 15.
In related news, an administrator for the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), a Malawian human rights group, was arrested on charges that the group’s HIV education materials are “pornographic.” Advocates believe the arrest was in retaliation for CEDEP’s public support for Chimbalanga and Monjeza.