MALAWI’S ARREST OF GAY COUPLE OUTRAGES LONDON GROUP
The London-based human rights group OutRage! has urged Britain Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to press the Malawi government to repeal the country’s anti-gay laws…
OutRage! spokesman, David Allison, in a letter written to British Foreign Secretary appealed to Milliband to make representations to the President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika to release Steven Monjeza, 26 and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, who are being held on remand after the publicly cerebrated their same-sex engagement.
The letter reads: “This letter is in support of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, citizens of Malawi, who are being held in custody in Chichiri Prison, Malawi, and denied bail, on charges of consenting adult homosexuality following their same-sex engagement ceremony.
“In doing so they have committed no criminal offence under the laws of Malawi. The ceremony is legal in Malawi and no laws were broken by the two participants.”
It continues: “We ask you to intercede with the President of Malawi, his Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to urge that these two men are not ill-treated while in prison, to urge that they are swiftly released on bail and to urge that all charges against them are dropped.
“We further ask you to press the Government of Malawi to initiate moves to decriminalise homosexuality in accordance with the equality and non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
British Foreign Secretary is also being asked to seek a halt to the arrest and prosecution of three Malawian human rights campaigners, who publicly defended the jailed men and secured them legal representation.
Global rights watchdog, Amnesty International has also added its voice to ask Malawi to release the gay couple who are being held at Chichiri prison.
Homosexuality is illegal under Penal Code in Malawi and attracts a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
However, Malawi’s human rights lawyers argue that the Penal Code that prohibits homosexuality is in conflict with the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution, lawyers say, guarantees freedom to express one’s sexual orientation.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabiliation (CHRR) executive director, Undule Mwakusungula has asked government to “open up debate” on homosexuality.
Secretary for Nutrition and HIV/Aids in the Office of President and Cabinet, Dr Mary Shaba, is on record as saying that there are many gays in Malawi and some among them are married to people of the opposite sex.
She even told an Aids conference that the fight against HIV/AIDS will not be successful if the country continued to ignore the fact that there are gays in Malawi.
“We met at church where we both pray and we have been together for the last five months … I have never been interested in a woman,” Steven Monjeza told The Nation newspaper.
The pair were charged with public indecency after becoming the first gay could to have married in the super conservative Malwai. In the nation, homosexuality is actually illegal and the pair face tough sentencing.
“We arrested them (Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza) last night at their home and charged them with gross public indecency because the practice is against the law,” police spokesman, DaveChingwalu told media.
Being found guilty of homosexuality in Malawi carries a 14 year prison sentence. TiwongeChimbalanga and Steven Monjeza married Saturday in a symbolic ceremony that made headlines world wide.
Reports from Malawi said Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were clad in traditional attire during the ceremony. Chimbalanga and Monjeza attracted a crowd of hundreds to witness the ceremony.
Malawi authorities said Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza would likely face more charges pending an investigation.