Main | Thursday, May 20, 2010

MALAWI: Maximum 14 Year Hard Labor Sentence Imposed On Gay Couple

The Malawi gay couple arrest for "gross and indecent acts" has been sentenced to the maximum of 14 years in prison at hard labor.
The judge said he wanted to protect the public from "people like you". Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, have been in jail since they were arrested in December after holding an engagement ceremony. The case has sparked international condemnation and a debate about homosexuality in the country. The British government, Malawi's largest donor, expressed its "dismay" at the sentences, but has not withdrawn aid. The US state department, meanwhile, said the case was "a step backwards in the protection of human rights in Malawi." Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa described the actions by Malawi's first openly gay couple as an affront on Malawi's moral code. The courtroom was packed and hundreds more people stood outside, peering through windows. The case has ignited debate over homosexuality in Malawi, a conservative country where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism.

But the impoverished southern African nation has come under pressure from Western donor nations and agencies. They have cautioned Malawi to tread carefully over rights of minority groups, such as homosexuals, or risk being black-listed on governance issues, which may have aid implications. Some 40% of the development budget in Malawi is from donors. But despite the outcry, the authorities won't budge. President Bingu wa Mutharika dismisses homosexuality as alien. Handing down sentence in the commercial capital, Blantyre, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa told the pair: "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."
The crowd outside the courtroom shouted abuse at the pair as they were led away, with some screaming that the two deserved longer sentences.

Labels: , , ,

comments powered by Disqus