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Monday 08 November 2010

Gay couple jailed for 14 years in Malawi

Posted in: International Daily News
By Daily News staff - 21st May 2010

Monjeza and Chimbalanga1 are jeered as they are driven away from a court appearance in an open ute
A gay couple has been sentenced to 14 years jail in Malawi, after being convicted of 'gross indecency and unnatural acts'.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, have been in jail since December, when they held an engagement ceremony.

Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa told the men he wanted to send out a message.

"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," he said.

"We are sitting here to represent the Malawi society, which I do not believe is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons or conducting engagement ceremonies."

The case has sparked international condemnation - and some 40 percent of the development budget in Malawi is from donors.

BBC reports the British government, Malawi's largest donor, has expressed its "dismay" at the sentences, but has not withdrawn aid.

The US state department says the case is "a step backwards in the protection of human rights in Malawi".

British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell questions how two men can be jailed for 14 years, simply for loving one another.

"Even if they are jailed for 20 years you can't change their sexuality," he says.

Tatchell pointed out to BBC that the laws under which the pair were convicted were introduced during British colonial rule.

"These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African," he says.

He described the sentence as "brutal" and more severe than for rapists, armed robbers and killers.

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