Malawi Gay Man Risks Re-Arrest for Perjury

Jim Burroway

June 8th, 2010

Sometimes a guy just can’t get a break. We reported this morning that Steven Monjeza, one of two Malawians whose arrest, conviction, and subsequent pardon for allegedly breaking that country’s sodomy laws, has succumbed to the unimaginably intense pressure from the country’s deeply homophobic society by distancing himself from Tiwonge Chimbalanga and vowing to marry a twenty-four year old woman.

And in a further bid to try to shield himself Malawi’s malevolently homophobic society and avoid re-arrest, he propagated a common myth about homosexuality being a foreign plot, saying that this plot in his case goes all the way back to his arrest:

Monjeza, 26, confessed to a daily published on Tuesday that he was being forced “by other people” to go along with the gay story.

“Although, I claimed that I still love Tiwonge, I did not mean it,” he was quoted in the Nation newspaper as saying: “I have never had sex with him.”

According to the daily, Monjeza claimed that he was tricked to travel to the capital, Lilongwe, to profess his continued love to Tiwonge by unknown people who found him at home drunk and treated him to “a drinking orgy” along the

It’s that last statement, that he never loved nor had sex with Tiwonge — a statement that he made to try to avoid being re-arrested for homosexuality — that has, believe it or not, backfired, with at least one judiciary spokesman now calling for his arrest for perjury:

However, judiciary spokesman James Chigona told PANA Tuesday lying in court constitutes perjury.

“I don’t want to comment on whether Mr. Monjeza perjured himself or not because as a court spokesman, if I say so, I would be passing judgment on him,” he said.

“But if there are witnesses that can testify that he lied under oath in court, it can constitute an offence of perjury.”

Solicitor General Anthony Kamanga agreed with Chigona but was cautious not to refer to the Monjeza case.

…However, a justice ministry source said the ministry was liaising with the police to see how to react to Monjeza’s confession.

There’s just no appeasing some people.

paul j stein

June 8th, 2010

Well, if he didn’t have sex with his former lover he will surely get screwed now!

Aaron

June 9th, 2010

Okay, WHY is he still in that country!?!?!?

Swampfox

June 9th, 2010

It is sad, but this guy needs to get out of the country.

Gentle Lamb

June 9th, 2010

It was not as a gay relationship as he had married a transexual.

Rebecca Ashling

June 9th, 2010

My understanding is that Tiwonge Chimbalanga describes herself as a woman so to my mind this was a relationship between a straight cis man and a straight trans woman.

Jim Burroway

June 9th, 2010

Rebecca and Lamb,

As I explained earlier, we need to be very careful about how we describe Tiwonge, where western definitions are sometime too restrictive in describing people from other cultures. It is for the same reasons however that I have refrained from identifying Tiwonge in particular as gay, and hence the couple as a “gay” couple. It is unclear whether or how either label applies in Tiwonge’s case.

However Steven’s self-identity is not dependent upon Tiwonge’s. He has previously described himself as gay, and so that’s the identity that I will stick with to describe him alone. He has repeatedly used the word “gay” to discribe his situation and his relationship with Tiwonge, and so “gay” is clearly how he sees himself. He has also used the male pronoun to refer to Tiwonge, and Tiwonge has apparently not objected to it. Although now I suppose his “gay” identity may need to be modified now that he now claims he’s no longer gay.

At any rate, just as we want to be extremely accurate in describing people in the West, we should take equal care in describing people in other cultures whose concepts don’t neatly fit into our own particular breakdowns and dividing lines between sexuality and gender.

Also, in the interest of accuracy, the couple were never married. Despite initial reports based on Western misunderstanding of Malawi culture, they were arrested following a traditional engagement ceremony. Again, we must exercise great care in reporting on events in other cultures if we really want to understand exactly what is happening. Relying upon our own biases and cultural references, as is natural for us to do (after all, it’s all we know) can result in telling a story that has only a marginally passing resemblence to reality. Because accuracy is what we strive for here, these are the practices we will continue to place great care in.

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