May 18th, 2010
Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were found guilty today of gross indecency and “unnatural acts” in a verdict delivered at Blantyre Magistrate’s Court. Said Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa, “The state has proven beyond reasonable doubt that these gentlemen had sex despite them being male, which is against the law of Malawi.” The couple will be sentenced on Thursday, May 20. They face up to fourteen years imprisonment with hard labor. Lawyers hope to reverse the decision at High Court.
The verdict has earned condemnation from around the world:
“We have a reached a point in Malawi where we need to decide whether we regard minority groups as equal to others in terms of their human rights,” said Gift Trapence, executive director of the human rights group Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), who was in the courtroom Tuesday.
“Malawi is using laws brought in by the British,” he said. “They need to be updated.”
UK LGBT Advoate Peter Tatchell, who has been in close contact with Steven and Tiwonge, also denounced the verdict via press release:
“The law under which they were convicted is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. It is unconstitutional. Article 20 of Malawi’s constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination. The law in Malawi is not supposed to discriminate,” added Mr Tatchell.
“Malawi’s anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws.
“I expect both men will now appeal against the verdict and against any sentence that is handed down. Steven and Tiwonge’s best hope is that a higher court will overturn this unjust, cruel verdict.”
Tatchell noted that the Magistrate appeared biased throughout the trial. The Magistrate had denied bail to the couple, which is an extreme rarity for a non-violent crime. The Magistrate also permitted witnesses from the gallery and court personnel to abuse the couple during official court proceedings.
Tatchell also reports that you can write to Steven and Tiwonge to offer them your support. You can address your letters and post cards to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison, P.O.Box 30117, Blantyre 3, Malawi.
Update: Despite international condemnation, the Malawian government is quite pleased with the conviction.
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Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"
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And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.
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