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Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for March, 2010

Reuters: Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Hinders Investments

Jim Burroway

March 3rd, 2010

From Ed Cropley, Reuter’s African Investment Correspondent:

Malawi and Zambia are set to win hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. infrastructure grants in the next two years due to steady improvements in the way they are run, U.S. aid officials said on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, an anti-gay law being tabled in Uganda is likely to hamper the east African country’s progress from ‘threshold’ partner with the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) aid arm to fully-fledged grant-receiver.

… “How a government deals with its human rights situation is definitely an indicator that we think is important,” said Cassandra Butts, senior adviser to the MCC’s chief executive. “That will be something we will review and we will make a determination of our continued investment in Uganda,” she told reporters at an investment conference in South Africa.

The MCC has a budget of US$1.5 billion over the next five years, with only US$10 million earmarked for Uganda, which it sees as a “threshold” country partly due to its troublesome human rights record and rampant corruption. Neighboring Tanzania, in contrast, is a “compact” country with a five-year deal worth US$698 million.

However, Malawi will also be brought in is also seen as a “compact” country later this year, making it eligible for higher levels of development aid. That development comes despite an arrest of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga last December on charges of “gross indecency” following a traditional wedding ceremony. They are scheduled to be sentenced on March 22 following a show trial involving massive abuses. Meanwhile, Malawi authorities have arrested one LGBT advocate and are at last report conducting a witch hunt for LGBT citizens in that country.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Malawi Constitutional Court Refuses To Block Trial

Jim Burroway

February 23rd, 2010

Malawi’s Constitutional court refused to refused to hear the case of Tiwonge Chimbalanga (who identifies as a woman) and Steven Monjeza, who were arrested and charged with “gross indecency” in December following a traditional engagement ceremony. Their lawyer, Mauya Msuku, appealed to the high court in January, arguing that Malawi’s anti-homosexuality laws violated their constitutional rights to privacy, belief and self-expression. Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo disagreed, saying that the case was a simple criminal proceeding.

The couple have pleaded no guilty. The verdict is expected to be handed down March 22. Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi, where it carries a sentence of up to 14 years with hard labor.

Malawi Couple To Be Sentenced March 22

Jim Burroway

February 18th, 2010
Steven Monjeza (R) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (L)

Steven Monjeza (R) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (L)

A Malawi court will sentence Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza next month of charges of “gross indecency.” Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman, and Monjeza were arrested last December after holding a traditional engagement ceremony. The couple face a maximum sentece of 14 years at hard labor.

The couple have complained at gross mistreatment by police and fellow prisoners, and were subjected to humiliating “medical” examinations. They were also abused in court, when Tiwonge Chimbalanga fell ill during the trial and was forced to clean up her own vomit.

Since the couple’s arrest, Malawi authorities have arrested an LGBT advocate for hanging gay rights posters in Blantyre, the country’s commercial and judicial capital. There has also been an announced crackdown on a “network of high-profile” LGBT people, which has already netted at least one other arrest. That witch-hunt is expected to continue.

Gay Witch-Hunt Underway In Malawi

Jim Burroway

February 17th, 2010

Malawi authorities are on the hunt:

Malawi Police have uncovered a network of high-profile people who are involved homosexual acts including University of Malawi lectures and priests police spokesman said. Davie Chingwalu, police spokesman for the Southern Region is quoted by Associated Press that police investigation indicates that some University of Malawi lectures are involved in practices of homosexuality.

“Some are white expatriates, some are priests while others are university lecturers,” Chingwalu is quoted by AP. … Chingwalu said police are still investigating the matter and warned that “we will arrest them all.”

A deputy government spokesman, Kingsley Namankhwa, urged gays to “come out in the open” so that they can be arrested. Police have already arrested Tony Chirwa, 60, on a complaint that he “sodomized” a 23-year-old man.

Last December, 26-year-old Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested following a traditional engagement ceremony. They have since been charged with buggery or unnatural acts between males and gross indecency, which carries a sentence of fourteen years at hard labor.

Two weeks ago, police arrested Peter Sawali, 21, for posting gay-rights posters in the city of Blantyre, the country’s commercial and judicial capital. He was sentenced to two months’ community service.

Malawi Gay Rights Advocate Arrested

Jim Burroway

February 2nd, 2010

Malawi’s Nyasa Times reports that police in Blantyre, the country’s commercial and judicial capital, have arrested Peter Sawali, 21, who was hanging gay rights posters in the city. He was charged with “conduct likely to cause breach of peace,” according to a police spokesman.

Malawi’s treatment of its LGBT citizens have come under international scrutiny following the December 28 arrest of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chumbalanga under Malawi’s anti-homosexuality law. The couple have been denied bail by Malawi’s High Court. They are currently on trial, facing a possibility of ten years’ imprisonment.

Malawi Couple Denied Bail A Second Time, Lawmakers Consider Harsher Punishments for LGBTs

Jim Burroway

January 29th, 2010
Steven Monjeza (R) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (L)

Steven Monjeza (R) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (L)

Malawi’s High Court Judge Rowland Mbvundula has refused an appeal seeking bail for, the couple who were arrested on December 28 and charged with “gross indecency” following a traditional engagement ceremony. Tiwonge identifies as a woman and may be intersex. She was banished from her village when she was thirteen.

Steven and Tiwonge have reported repeated mistreatment in the hands of police, prison officials, fellow prisoners, and even court officials during trial. Malawi’s Nyasa Times reports that the High Court judge denied the bail on appeal for the couple’s own protection:

Judge Mbvundula also pointed out the same in his ruling: “In the current circumstances, the state is validly concerned about and interested in the applicants’ safety and justified to be wary of releasing them into the community, at least for the time being.”

State prosecutor Dickens Mwambazi objected to the bail appeal saying the police  fear the couple, who have pleaded not guilty, would “tamper with evidence” if released on bail.

Malawi Gay Rights Movement (Magrim) announced that they will hold a demonstration on Sunday in Blantyre, Malawi’s financial capital and largest city.

The arrests in Malawi, a former British colony, has been condemned  by British and Scottish lawmakers. That condemnation, in turn, was denounced by Kondwani Nankuluma of the Legal Affairs committee of Malawi’s Parliament:

“We are following our laws and proceeding with the case for the two in the courts. They have no part in this business as we have laws and we are following it. Why do they keep pestering us to release the two?” he said.

AfricaNews.com reports that Malawi’s Parliament will begin deliberation into adding harsher punishments to the country’s anti-homosexuality law. Malawi’s current law carries a maximum sentence of fourteen years’ imprisonment.

Anti-Gay Abuse Heaped on Malawi Couple During Trial

Jim Burroway

January 15th, 2010
Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in the dock at their trial.

Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in the dock at their trial.

The trial against Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were arrested by Malawi police last month following a traditional engagement ceremony in Blantyre, began this week with the prosecutor for South Dickens Mwambazi telling the court that they had a total of seven witness. Four witnesses testified on Monday:

One of the state witnesses was Jean Kamphale, owner of Mankhoma Lodge, where the two suspects had their engagement ceremony.

Kamphale said Chimbalanga confessed to having sex with partner Monjeza to both herself and the police when they picked them on December 28, last year.

“After the media published the story about the two’s engagement, I felt having been deceived by Tionge who for a long time claimed to be a woman.

“He therefore offered to undress so that we could prove the truth of his claims. But after some resistance to show us his genitals, Tionge finally allowed Nyazayi Piringu, Flony Frank and I to see his organ, which to our surprise and contrary to his claims that it was feminine, was male in nature,” Kamphale said.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a woman.

The other three witnesses on Monday denied having evidence that the accused had sex before they were arrested. Evidence of sexual penetration is required under Malawi law for conviction. Monjeza and Chimbalanga were reportedly threatened with humiliating physical examinations by the prosecutor’s office. There are also charges that the two have been beaten by police and fellow prisoners. They were denied bail.

In more troubling news, the trial was expected to resume on Wednesday to hear testimony from the last three witnesses, but Chief Resident magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa adjourned the case because, according to the Nyasa Times, Tiwonge was sick, providing no more details. But The Times of London more fully describes this outrageous and humiliating development:

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who has spent more than a week in one of the country’s most congested prisons, vomited and stumbled onto the dusty court floor just before the case was due to start.

As he lay on the ground he was jeered by members of the public who had crowded in to watch what has become a cause célèbre and a test case for gay rights in the African nation.

“Auntie Tiwo ali ndi mimba” — or “Auntie Tiwo is pregnant” — people said.

With no one to assist him, Mr Chimbalanga, 20, dressed with a traditional dotted red and yellow striped wrapper around his waist and a red top, finally managed to stand and was allowed to leave to clean himself up.

A few minutes later he re-emerged with a mop and a pail to clean the vomit from the court floor — a chore that women in Africa typically have to perform even when they are sick.

The two face fourteen years imprisonment if they are convicted.

Malawi Couple Denied Bail

Jim Burroway

January 5th, 2010
Steven Monjeza (L) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R)

Steven Monjeza (L) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R)

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.

Malawi Couple Pleads Not Guilty

Jim Burroway

December 30th, 2009

According to the BBC, the male couple who were arrested for participating in a symbolic traditional engagement ceremony have appeared in court to plead not guilty and ask for bail.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza appeared in court at Blatyre, Malawi’s largest city, on Monday. The BBC reports the court room was packed with large crowds of onlookers. Some people congratulated them but other shouted insults. Also:

Prosecutors say they will send the pair to hospital to prove they have had sex together.

…Mr Monjeza, 26, hinted that he may consider calling off the proposed wedding, as he was sent back to prison.”I am sad I am going back to Chichiri Prison,” he said. “The condition are terrible there. People are exaggerating this thing. I may just as well dissolve this marriage.”Mr Chimbalanga, 20, dressed in women’s clothes, refused to speak to journalists, beyond accusing them of writing “stupid” things.

Homosexuality in Malawi carries a maximum sentence of fourteen years’ imprisonment.

Malawi Couple Arrested, Face 14 Years Imprisonment

Jim Burroway

December 29th, 2009
Malawi couple

Steven Monjeza (L) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R) married in Malawi last Saturday

Last weekend, two Malawian men became the first same-sex couple to marry in that country. Today, we learn that they have been arrested for “public indecency” because of their wedding.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were married in a symbolic, traditional wedding engagement ceremony on Saturday. They were arrested on Monday night at their home and charged with “gross public indecency because the practice is against the law,” according to police spokesman, Dave Chingwalu.

Homosexuality carries a maximum prison sentence of fourteen years in Malawi. The police spokesman said that the couple will likely face more charges as the investigation continues.

More Anglican Dischord in Africa

Timothy Kincaid

February 4th, 2008

That portion of the Anglican Church known as the Global South and consisting primarily of Africa and Asia is where there is the greatest resistance to welcoming gay persons as equal members in the body of the Church. Bishops from Africa have led a revolt against the Archbishop of Canterbury and issued ultimatums to the Episcopal Church (the US branch of Anglicanism) about ordination of gay bishops.

Some have even usurped the authority of the American church and have set themselves up as overseeing bishops for those American dioceses for whom opposing gay inclusion is a more basic tenat of their faith than is unity in the body of Christ.

However, in the midst of Africa is a province that supports the international body, the Central Africa Province comprising Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This loyalty did not sit well with a bishop in Zimbabwe. Nolbert Kunonga is vehemently opposed to gay persons and did not believe his Province was adequately homophobic. Not surprisingly, he is an ally of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who has made statements claiming gay people are worse than dogs or pigs and threatening prosecution of religious leaders who disagree with him on same-sex couples.

Kunonga announced in December that he was breaking away from his province. He has been replaced by Sebastian Bakare.

However Kunonga did not readily accept Bakare’s appointment.

But Kunonga and his followers barricaded themselves in the cathedral.

When two representatives of Bakare went to the building and tried to gain access they were badly beaten.

With Mugabe’s support, it seems unlikely that Kunonga will readily recognize Bukare’s authority. And I fear that violence will continue.

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