On this date a Gay couple in Malawi were sentenced to fourteen years of hard labor in prison. STEVEN MONJENZA, 26, and TIWONGE CHIMBALANGA, 20, conducted a traditional engagement ceremony in late December in Chirimba, near Blantyre. After news reports surfaced of the same-sex engagement, they were rounded up by Malawi’s police and charged under colonial-era sodomy laws.
The arrest received some popular support in the conservative southern African nation, but sparked outrage among Malawian and international Gay Rights campaigners. The presiding judge refused bail for the men, who are being held in Chichiru Prison in Blantyre. “It is quite outrageous,” said Peter Tatchell, the Gay rights activist from Britain who is supporting the pair. “In Malawi, people facing much more serious felony charges for serious crimes usually get bail.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for the release of the young men. The Malawi Law Society said the case has been driven by prejudice and not jurisprudence.
Chimbalanga sent British human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell this defiant message from jail: “If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”
Subsequent to the sentencing, Malawian president, Bingu wa Mutharika, released the pair, citing humanitarian grounds, after international pressure and the eventual visit of UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon to the southern African country.
Peter Tatchel told media in Malawi that they were liasing with Steve and Tiwongwe about whether they want to seek asylum abroad. “If they want then we can help them stay in Britain,” said Tatchel.