Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.
The Malawian government has refused to interfere in the prosecution of a gay couple by the country’s courts.
According to the Associated Press, Malawi’s Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto said that the men had broken the country’s laws.
“As government we cannot interfere in the court process,” said Thoto, adding that while the country was admittedly reliant on foreign funding it would not bow to international pressure on the matter.
Last week, the New York based Human Rights Watch joined other human rights organisations in calling for the immediate release of Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20) and Steven Monjeza (26).
“Prosecuting two adults just because they affirm their love is a terrible injustice,” said Dipika Nath, researcher in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights program at Human Rights Watch.
“The prosecution of these individuals under Malawi’s colonial-era ‘sodomy’ laws and the ill-treatment and possible torture of the couple are a grave threat to human rights and public health in Malawi”, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to high-level justice and home affairs officials in Malawi.
Chimbalanga and Monjeza have been in custody since the end of December 2009. They were arrested following their public engagement ceremony. They have, according to reports, been beaten in jail and forced to undergo medical examinations.
The couple has been charged with ‘unnatural practices between males and gross public indecency’ and face 14 years in prison if found guilty. Their lawyers are waiting to hear if an application to have the case heard before the country’s Constitutional Court will be successful.
The trial has been adjourned until 25 January.