Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Date Set in Trial of Malawi Gay Couple

via edge Boston, by Kilian Milloy

When 26-year-old Steven Monjeza and 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga celebrated an engagement ceremony in the African nation Malawi, it was symbolic of their love. But the legal ramifications that followed have been too severe, say critics of the way that the men were arrested under the country’s decency laws and kept confined for months in a maximum-security prison.

As the case has dragged on, Malawi has become yet another African nation making headlines for its anti-gay laws, along with Uganda, where a proposed law would provide the death penalty for some gays. Earlier this month, the trial of Monjeza and Chimbalanga was postponed, according to a March 22 article at The judge agreed to allow the defense to use the additional time to gather witnesses. Although the postponement allows the defense more time, Chivuli Ukwimi of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission criticized the court’s decision, saying, "This ruling is the most recent in a line of deeply troubling decisions and actions by the Malawian authorities in this case, including the decision to deny bail to Steven and Tiwonge, claiming that their continued incarceration is for their own safety." also reported that the men have been forced to undergo intrusive physical examinations in order for authorities to determine whether they have engaged in anal sex.

A protest that took place March 22 in London condemned the months that the men have spent in prison since their arrest late last December. Gay Malawi refugee Edi Phiri spoke at the protest, saying, "I urge my President and government to intervene to release Steven and Tiwonge. These two men don’t deserve the way they are suffering in jail." Added Phiri, "The delay in the trial and the postponed verdict is a sign that the government and judiciary are split. Some officials want to convict and others don’t. They keep on putting off the verdict. It is unfair to treat Steven and Tiwonge like this." Noted Phiri, "Malawi’s anti-gay laws are not African. They were imposed by the British colonizers nearly two centuries ago."

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