Couple In Malawi Found Guilty Of Being Gay
3:23pm UK, Tuesday May 18, 2010
Emma Hurd, Africa correspondent
A gay couple in Malawi have been found guilty of “unnatural acts” and gross indecency in a trial that has highlighted the country’s repressive laws on homosexuality.
Steven Monjeza, 26, and his 20-year-old partner, Tiwonge Chimbalanga, were convicted by a court in the capital, Blantyre, and could face up to 14 years in jail.
The pair have been in custody since December when they were arrested for holding a symbolic marriage ceremony.
Their prosecution, the first of its kind in recent years, provoked worldwide condemnation from civil rights groups.
Laws banning homosexuality in Malawi have been on the statute books in the small southern African nation since the end of colonial rule, but are rarely enforced.
The case has forced Malawi’s already fearful gay community into hiding.
One man told Sky News that he feared being arrested and thrown in jail.
“It’s like we’re not even human,”he said.
The rise of American-style Christian evangelism in Malawi has been blamed for the crackdown.
Some hardline preachers have condemned homosexuality as “evil”, while even moderates have described it as a mental illness that can be cured.
Other African nations, including Uganda, which is considering the death penalty for some “homosexual crimes”, are pursuing a similarly repressive approach to gay rights.
South Africa is the only country on the continent that has laws that specifically safeguard the rights of gay men and women.