Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

There’s anger at yesterday’s court verdict convicting a gay couple in Malawi on charges of homosexuality.

On Tuesday, Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa found Steven Monjeza (26) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20) guilty of unnatural acts and gross indecency. This after they were arrested in December for getting engaged in public ceremony. They are expected to receive sentencing on Thursday, which could include up to 14 years in prison.

“This is an outrageous verdict. While Steven and Tiwonge freely confirmed their love for each other, there was no credible evidence that they had committed any illegal homosexual acts,” said London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who has been supporting and advocating for the men since their arrest and continued detention.

“Malawi’s anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws,” he said.

Meanwhile, a coalition of South African human rights organisations, including the Treatment Action Campaign, has called for those opposed to the persecution of the couple to sign an online petition.

They also urged people to phone the Malawian embassy in Pretoria on 012 342 0146/1759 to “explain politely that the Malawian justice system and government is violating human rights”.

The groups expressed their alarm at the “continued incitement, in multiple African countries especially Zimbabwe, Malawi and Uganda, against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people,” and called for the Secretary General of the United Nations and the heads of other UN Agencies to tackle the issue.

“In particular, we call on the South African government, as the only state in Africa to recognise equality for sexual minorities, to defend the South African constitution by offering asylum to the two men convicted in Malawi and negotiating their immediate release from prison,” they added.

This call was repeated by Tatchell, who said: “I appeal to governments worldwide, especially the South African government, to condemn this harsh, bigoted judgement and to urge its reversal.

The South African government has been notably absent from the chorus of voices condemning the arrest of the couple in Malawi and other LGBT rights violations on the continent.

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