A protest at the Malawian High Commission in Pretoria on Wednesday saw activists demanding that Malawi release Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were convicted on Tuesday on charges related to homosexuality.

Organised by Section27, a recently formed human rights health group, and including organisations such as OUT, the demonstration saw around 50 people holding rainbow flags and signs calling for the couple’s release while singing and dancing at the commission’s entrance.

Police quickly arrived and negotiated with the organisers not to obstruct the driveway. While the High Commissioner was not available, a representative from the commission agreed to accept a letter from the group.

Before handing over the statement, it was read to the crowd and the commission’s staff by Section27’s Adila Hassim, who said that the demonstrators had gathered to “express their horror at the conviction of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga… because they love each other.”

She noted that their conviction was in direct conflict with various clauses of the Malawian Constitution, which she described as enlightened.

“Only a homophobic, archaic and unjust court relying on colonial laws and spurred by unenlightened politicians and prejudiced mob mentality could have convicted Steven and Tiwonge.

“We assure you that we and hundreds of organisations and tens of thousands of individuals across the world will carry out a sustained campaign for the release of Steven and Tiwonge.”

She called on the Malawian government to free the two men and to issue a statement to the world confirming its commitment to protect all people’s dignity, equality and freedom as required by the Malawian constitution.

The Malawian representative thanked the protestors for expressing their concerns, accepted the letter and said that he would ensure that it was forwarded to the Malawian government who would respond in due time.

Monjeza (26) and Chimbalanga (20) were found guilty of unnatural acts and gross indecency after they were arrested in December for getting engaged in public ceremony. They are expected to receive sentencing today, which could include up to 14 years in prison.

Click here to view more images from the protest.

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