Malawi Frees Couple Imprisoned for Sodomy

Jim Burroway

May 29th, 2010

Steven Monjeza (foreground) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga being led away following their sentencing to 14 years at hard labor

Following a visit from U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika announced the pardon of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. He has ordered the immediate release of the couple, according to Malawi-based Nyasa Times:

“I have decided that with effect from today, they are pardoned and they will be released,” President Mutharika told a battery of reporters after meeting UN boss.

…”These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” said the Malawi President. “However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”

He added: “I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this.”

According to the BBC, Mr. Ban hailed the move as “courageous.” “This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist,” he said.

The U.N. General Secretary is in Malawi to speak before Malawi’s Parliament as part of celebrations over the opening of the nation’s new Chinese-built Parliament Building in the recently-designated capital of Lilongwe. The BBC and the Guardian (UK) report that Mr. Ban is expected to call on Parliament to rescind its anti-sodomy laws.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman, were given the maximum sentence of fourteen years at hard labor last week on charges of “gross indecency” and “unnatural acts,” following a traditional engagement ceremony the couple held last December.

It is unclear when Steven and Tiwonge will actually be released, and it is more uncertain as to where they would go. Their case has gained worldwide attention and their photos are well-known throughout Malawi.

Their release is marks an important development in gay rights on the African continent. Throughout 2009 and 2010, virulent anti-gay campaigns had broken out in several African countries, with Uganda threatening to hang gay people who were HIV-positive and jail everyone else who had anything to do with them. Ugandan leaders bragged that their proposal was a demonstration of “leadership to the world” against LGBT people, but international pressure has led to multiple news reports hinting that the bill may die a quiet death. If Malawi’s conviction and imprisoning of Steven and Tiwonge was left to stand, it was feared that other nations on the continent may be encourage to initiate or revive their own anti-gay campaigns.

Mike

May 29th, 2010

I hope Malawi and other nations adopt a practice whereby those convicted of such nonviolent, victim-less local “crimes” may apply to emigrate instead of being imprisoned or even executed. Many nations would welcome Steven and Tiwonge without hesitation.

It seems like nations consider their citizens to be property, or cattle, and choose to torment and kill their transgressors at great expense, when voluntary exile would be more humane.

Lindoro Almaviva

May 29th, 2010

I hope they are offered political asylum somewhere in Europe, where they can be wed and lead productive lives.

Regan DuCasse

May 29th, 2010

Good points folks!
A country like Canada, where they can be legally married and have social services that would support them and integrate them into Canadian society seems ideal.

Better than in America (embarrassing to say) where marriage would be limited.

I’m so happy for them. And it’s a shame before all that’s good and just that two men or two women cannot love in peace.

anteros

May 29th, 2010

i’m so happy they got outta jail! i didnt think this would happen, not after all those months of harassment and humiliation.

props to ban ki moon.

Emily K

May 29th, 2010

i’m so glad. this is such a relief to me.

Emily K

May 29th, 2010

..of course, it still leaves me concerned about prison conditions other prisoners must endure in Malawi…

Debbie

May 29th, 2010

What worries me is that they will be released without protection. Their families have already rejected them, so who will keep them safe? I fear violence against them with the authorities doing nothing to prevent it. Can’t someone get them out of the country NOW?

John duffell

May 29th, 2010

Ndikusowa pogwira…I am at a complete loss. I did not expect this, not in a million years. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Malawi’s anti-sodomy laws are about to be reformed, and we could definitely see some backlash against Mutharika’s pardon. Still, heartening news.

I’m still having difficulty accepting the truth of this. Until I see photographic evidence of their freedom, I’m not sure I’ll be able to accept that it has really happened.

It will be interesting to see the reactions by other countries. I’m less interested in those of the West; I’m much more curious how other African nations who are currently grappling with the “gay issue” will respond. Malawi and Zimbabwe, for example, are very close friends (as are their respective heads of state).

For what it’s worth, Mutharika is the current head of the African Union, which certainly lends more weight to this as a symbolic gesture.

justsearching

May 30th, 2010

It was somewhat brave of the president to go against public opinion to release these two. However, everyone knows that he did so under international political and financial pressure. I wonder what the behind-the-scenes talks to secure the release looked like.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required)
(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

 

Latest Posts

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

FBI Reports Massive Surge In Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes in 2015

Baptist General Convention of Texas Warns Churches in Dallas and Austin Over LGBT Inclusion

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

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"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.