Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga made international headlines in 2010 and 2011 when they were arrested under Malawi’s sodomy laws.
Africa’s gay and lesbian community is in shock after Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced on Thursday to 14 years in prison with hard labour.
Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa announced the horror sentence – the maximum possible for charges of “unnatural acts” and “gross indecency” under Malawian law – at the Magistrate’s Court in Blantyre.
“I sentence you to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour each. That’s the maximum under the penal code. I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example,” he told the men.
On Tuesday, Usiwa-Usiwa found Monjeza guilty of “having carnal knowledge of Tiwonge through the anus, which is against the order of nature” and Chimbalanga guilty of “permitting buggery”.
Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa director of Amnesty International, described the sentence as “an outrage”, in an interview with the AP news agency.
Malawi’s minister of information, Leckford Mwanza Thotho, was quoted as saying that his government was pleased with the court’s earlier guilty verdict because it “reflects our tradition in Malawi. It just shows that the gay issue is against our culture in Malawi”.
Chimbalanga and Monjeza have been in custody since the end of December 2009 when they were arrested for getting engaged in a public ceremony.
According to SAPA, the couple’s lawyer, Mauya Msuku, said that he would consult with his clients to consider an appeal at the high court.