President Bingu wa Mutharika

In a surprising move Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika has reluctantly pardoned the gay couple that was recently jailed for 14 years.

He made the announcement shortly after meeting with Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, in the Malawian capital Lilongwe.

“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” said Mutharika after the discussions.

“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”

He added: “I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this.”

Malawi has been under considerable international pressure following the May 20 ruling that saw Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, sentenced to 14 years in jail with hard labour.

They were convicted under the country’s colonial era anti-gay laws after they got engaged in a public ceremony in December last year.

It is estimated that around 40% of Malawi’s budget comes from foreign donors.

“I do appreciate and commend the very courageous decision to pardon these two gay boys,” Ban told reporters after the president’s announcement.

“This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist,” he said.

Peter Tatchell, the British human rights campaigner who has championed Monjeza and Chimbalanga’s case, applauded President Mutharika and Ban Ki Moon.

“I hope the government of Malawi will now show true humanitarian leadership by repealing the criminalisation of homosexuality and enacting laws to protect gay people against discrimination and hate crimes, as South Africa has done.

“As someone who supported the people of Malawi in the 1970s and 80s, when they struggled against the dictatorship of Dr Hastings Banda, I urge the Malawian government to continue the transition to democracy and human rights by ensuring equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens,” said Tatchell.

According to Britain’s Telegraph, Ban will be addressing the country’s parliament during his visit and will be calling on lawmakers to repeal the repressive legislation.

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