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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