Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

Norway’s Minister of International Development, Erik Solhem, has, during an official visit, called on Malawi’s government to be more tolerant of gays and lesbians.

Solhem commented on the imprisonment, since December last year, of two gay men who were arrested for marking their relationship in a public ceremony.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga face 14 years imprisonment should they be found guilty of ‘unnatural practices between males and gross public indecency’.

“My concern (is) that the continued remand of the gay couple will negatively impact on the good perceptions that people have about Malawi internationally,” said the minister at a meeting with Malwaian government officials.

“Malawi has been in the limelight internationally for achieving food security over the years and because of other good economic programs but if the gay issue is not handled well it can negatively impact on this,” he added.

In recent weeks Malawian police have stated that they intend to crack down on gays and lesbians. “We are targeting some prominent personalities and our suspects include legislators, priests, academics and other professionals,” said police spokesman Davie Chingwalu last month.

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