Malawi Gay couple sentenced to 14 years for ‘wedding’

A Malawi magistrate has made an ‘example’ of a gay couple sentencing them to a 14-year jail term with hard labour.

The case of Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, has made headlines around the world since their incarceration last December.

Monejeza and Chimbalanga were held in a prison without bail for four and a half months after holding a ‘marriage’ ceremony in Blantyre. Gay sex and gay marriage is outlawed in Malawi.

Human rights organizations around the world called for pair to be released, with Human Rights Watch urging the Malawian president to intervene.

However, after pleading not guilty the couple were yesterday convicted of ‘unnatural acts and gross indecency’ and given a maximum prison sentence.

Associated Press has reported that the magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa said: “I sentence you to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour each. That’s the maximum under the penal code.

“I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example”

All calls for the case to be overturned have been rejected by the Malawian government.

Following the ruling Malawian minister of information, Leckford Mwanza Thotho said: “What we are saying is that the ruling or the court proceeding as of today, reflects our tradition in Malawi. It just shows that the gay issue is against our culture in Malawi,”

Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director, Michelle Kagari responded: “Their human rights, the rights to freedom from discrimination, of conscience, expression and privacy have been flagrantly violated.”

Uganda is also ignoring international pressure to withdraw a bill that calls for the introduction of the death penalty for some homosexual acts – a move that has been condemned by the U.S. and various European countries.

The controversial bill is likely to be amended, Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem told the BBC earlier this year following President Barack Obama denouncing it as “odious”.

By Gary Cosby

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New Minister for Equality’s anti-Gay voting record

Theresa May, the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has been appointed to the position of Home Secretary and Minster for Women and Equality.

In a move that will undoubtedly ruffle gay rights campaigners, Prime Minister David Cameron announced her appointment along with the rest of the new cabinet on Tuesday.

May’s voting record on gay rights could be construed as somewhat negative. In 1998 she voted against equalizing the age of consent and in 2008 she cast a no vote against the repeal of Section 28 – legislation that banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools.

In 2001 and again the following year May voted against gay couples being allowed to adopt.

May did however vote in favour of Civil Partnerships, granting same-sex couples identical rights and responsibilities to that of civil marriage in 2004.

In 2008 as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons she voted in favour of a bill which proposed that IVF rights should require a male role model – discriminating against lesbian fertility rights.

May replaces Chris Grayling in the post of Home Secretary. Grayling, who hasn’t been allocated a new position, caused a media storm recently when he said that bed and breakfast owners should have the right to ban gay couples.

In an interview with PinkNews David Henry of gay rights group Outrage said May was “the wrong person for the job

“She’s always been against gay rights since I can remember. I’m pretty sure she’s opposed almost every gay rights measure.”

Gay lobbying group Stonewall have so far declined to officially comment on the Home Secretary’s appointment however a spokesperson told Pink News: “Both coalition parties made a number of promises to lesbian and gay voters during the campaign. We look forward to working with Teresa May to see them fulfilled.”

By Gary Cosby

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My Family goes Gay!

 A character in the Popular BBC sitcom My Family is to come out as gay, a report claims.

The show’s youngest character Michael, played by 23-year-old Gabriel Thomson, makes the announcement at the beginning of the new series.

A My Family insider told the Daily Mail that Michael, one of the Harper children, decides to come out to his parents Ben and Susan, played by Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker as the show commences its tenth series.

Sources say that a gay storyline has been introduced to make the show ‘more edgy and relevant’.

“We were given a brief to turn the show into something a younger audience would relate to and watch. This is just one of the storylines we have come up with. It’s handled very sensitively.” A mole told the Daily Mail.

My Family was the most watched sitcom of 2009 averaging more than seven million viewers per episode. Its Christmas special pulled in over six million.

Thompson has acted in the series since its premier in 2000, and plays the youngest of the three Harper children.

He began his acting career aged five scoring his first major acting role as Young Pip in a BBC adaptation of Great Expectations. In 2001 he acted along side Jude Law in big budget flick Enemy at the Gates.

The young star was also rumoured to have made the final selection of actors to play Harry Potter but was pipped at the post by Daniel Radcliffe.

In 2008 Thomson was arrested and cautioned by police for possession of Class A drugs. A spokesman for the star said later: “no charges of any nature are going to be brought. The police regard this matter as now closed, and so do we”.

The tenth series of My Family will be shown later this year.

By Gary Cosby

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Senior Tory: Hotels can discriminate against Gays

Gay couples cautious about jumping into bed with the Conservatives at the forthcoming general election could only raise a wry knowing smile at the latest Tory gay gaffe.

Shadow home secretary Chris Graying has said he understands and supports Christian hotel owners who refuse to accommodate gay and lesbian couples.

The senior conservative was secretly recorded last week disagreeing with an equality law that protects gays from such discrimination – a law he had voted for.

In regards to the case of Christian couple Mike and Susanne Wilkinson, who recently turned a male gay couple away from their Berkshire B&B, Graying said he felt they should have the right to do so.

“I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences. I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home.”, he said at a Centre for Policy Studies think-tank.

“If they are running a hotel on the High Street, I really don’t think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes.”

His comments have caused anger among gay rights groups and embarrassed Tory leader David Cameron – currently wooing the gay vote.

Gay equality campaigners believe Graying’s opinion defies the equality Act 2006, which outlaws discrimination on goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Former Prime Minister and Conservative member of parliament William Hague defended Graying during an interview on BBC Radio 4 saying: “He supported the law then and he supports the law now and he will support it in future. He’s made clear that he’s not looking for a change to the law.” Adding: “I know him as a very valued colleague.”

By Gary Cosby

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EastEnders Gay-Bashing storyline set to offend

The secret gay romance between EastEnder’s characters Christian Clarke and Syed Masood takes a dramatic turn next month.

Soon after the love affair becomes public Christian, played by John Partridge, will suffer an anti-gay attack by a Muslim character.

The storyline is expected to spark a barrage of complaints from Muslim groups reports The Daily Star.

An EastEnders insider revealed to the newspaper: “Amira [Syed’s wife] finally learns the truth about Syed and, as you can imagine, she’s devastated

“She can’t believe that he would betray her like that with a man. And not just any man but Christian

“Everyone knows Amira’s leaving but it’s not yet known if Syed will go with her or stay in Walford with Christian. But it seems that Christian is going to take the brunt of Syed’s problems.

“Syed and Amira’s wedding achieved one of the highest ratings of the year, so we’re expecting viewers to again be gripped when this storyline reaches its dramatic climax. There will be lots of twists and turns along the way. And sadly for poor Christian, he’ll be the one who ends up taking a battering. There will also be lots of complaints.”

The Christian and Syed gay saga has already been criticized by senior Muslims.

A spokesman from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, told The Star: “EastEnders is famous for its gritty and realistic storylines but we cannot condone such violence from a Muslim character.”

Last year Asghar Bokhari, founding member of the MPAC, told the BBC that EastEnders “really lost an opportunity to present a normal friendly Muslim character to the British public” when commenting on the Syed character.

Diedrick Santer, executive producer for EastEnders disgreed: “Sometimes there’s a danger of being too careful with black or Asian characters that we might go into territories that might offend.

“But it seems to me if we steer away from any controversy, they don’t stand a chance of being a great EastEnders family [the Masood family] – they’ll just be in their kitchen unit making curries for years and years and that’s not going to be very interesting.”

By Gary Cosby

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U.S. Government funds gay cruise bar sex study

The U.S. Government is injecting $400,000 in to research to help find out why gay men have risky sex when drunk. It is hoped the study will help develop venue-based initiatives to help deter unsafe sexual behaviour.

The two year study, overseen by the National Institute of Health is being conducted with the help of six gay bars in Buenos Aires.

Why bars and clubs in the Argentinean capital were chosen isn’t entirely clear, however according to an online abstract of the study “Targeting public venues in Buenos Aires where men meet, alcohol is consumed, and sexual behavior occurs, the goal of this 2-year exploratory study is to understand the various factors that contribute to the creation of a high risk sexual space…While the cost of treatment for HIV is covered by the government, programs in HIV prevention are limited.”

The study which began in September 2008 focuses on a specific types of circumstance that leads to unsafe sex occurring “..although there has been much research on venues, alcohol use, and sexual risk behaviour, no studies have sought to understand the interaction between these three factors, an essential step in developing interventions that target HIV risk behaviour in these settings.”

A recent report quotes NIH officials as saying “the study is doing valuable work to address high HIV infection rates among homosexual men in Argentina, and that plans developed there could be translated for use in the United States and elsewhere”.

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