The verdict is in. A federal judge in San Francisco today struck down a voter-approved ban on gay marriage in California.
At Amnesty, we welcome the decision as Proposition 8 challenged our basic human right to be treated equally under the law. In response to the ruling, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox issued the following statement:
“The U.S. District Court has sent a clear message on Proposition 8: discrimination by any means is unacceptable. This affirms not only equality in civil marriage, but the basic human right to be treated equally under the law, without regard to an individual’s sexual orientation.
“Proposition 8 served only to stigmatize same-sex relationships in ways that can fuel further discrimination. Denying equal civil recognition of same-sex relationships compounds the effects of discrimination and undermines other rights, such as the right to housing or social security. Amnesty International welcomes today’s ruling as an affirmation of equality under the law.”
EuroPride Parade, Stockholm, Sweden. © AI
Communities began recognizing June as Pride Awareness Month in 1969 when members of the LGBT community instigated a riot in response to police brutality aimed at LGBT people at a gay bar in New York City.
This refusal to sit silently in the face of regular, discriminatory abuse helped galvanize the LGBT community and their allies across the United States, giving birth to the modern LGBT rights movement.
Join us this month as we shine a light on LGBT cases around the world and further the cause of equality and human rights for all. Take action right now:
- Encourage the president of Mexico to extend the right to marry to all Mexican residents»
- Call on the Iraqi government to investigate the murders of Iraqi gay men»
- Take more actions to protect human rights during Pride Month»
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza departing court May 20, 2010.
It was a lovely and welcome surprise this morning to learn that President Mutharika pardoned Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. This pardon came only because you as activists stood in solidarity with Steven and Tiwonge and demanded their rights to equality under the law. We joined the voice of the international community demanding these individuals not be persecuted because of their love.
But we are asking you not to rest on your laurels. There is still much work to be done. Acts of homophobia occur globally. Amnesty USA is taking action this June during Pride month to call attention to acts of discrimination, hindering progress towards equal rights for all.
Malawi will remain a featured case for this campaign. President Mutharika bowed to international pressure. Many governments condemned the arrest, prosecution and harsh sentencing of this couple. The United States government issued a strong statement, South African President Zuma roundly denounced their treatment, governments threatened to withdraw aid, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon met with President Mutharika right before the announcement of the pardon.
In his pardoning statement, President Mutharika clearly showed no acceptance, understanding or appreciation of gay rights.
“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws … I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this.”
It is clear that discrimination and persecution will continue in Malawi and so we call for the repeal of the law allowing the arrest and imprisonment of gay people, a law that contravenes Malawi’s constitution and international treaties. Look for this action to be live when we launch our Pride campaign June 4th.
Today a gay couple in Malawi was sentenced to serve the maximum possible sentence of 14 years in prison. They were convicted on May 18th of unnatural acts and gross indecency. Personally, I think jailing people for expressing their love is both unnatural and indecent.
In December, Steven and Tiwonge celebrated their love with a traditional engagement ceremony at the hotel where Tiwonge worked. The publicity generated by the ceremony alerted authorities, leading to their arrest. They knew the risk they took, but are so dedicated to each other and their relationship, they proceeded anyway with their public declaration of love. Because of that commitment and desire to spend their lives together in a loving relationship, they are now sentenced to serve prison time. Tiwonge purportedly released the following statement prior to the sentencing:
“I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”
At the sentencing, the judge stated he was giving the maximum sentence in order to scare the public and inhibit other gay people from following this “horrendous example.” Amnesty International considers Steven and Tiwonge to be Prisoners of Conscience and declared the sentence to be an “outrage.” The men have three weeks to file an appeal and Amnesty will continue to campaign vigorously on behalf of these two men. We will call upon the Appeals Court to overturn their conviction and release them unconditionally. Check back soon as an action will be live on this case in the next few days. In the meantime, please go here to get information about how you can urge the US Congress to take action on behalf of Steven and Tiwonge.
Last week, Congressman Kirk (R-IL) and Congresswoman Baldwin (D-WI) introduced a Resolution before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee calling on the Malawi government to release Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, a gay couple imprisoned since December. They were arrested following an engagement ceremony and have been denied bail by the court. The Resolution calls for their release on humanitarian grounds and bring Malawi into compliance with international law treaties to which it is a party. Amnesty International has declared Tiwonge and Monjeza to be Prisoners of Conscience and are also urging their immediate release.
Contact your Representatives and Senators and urge them to co-sponsor this Resolution. We might not always like how we wield it, but the US still has much power and sway in this world, and this strong statement can continue to put pressure on the Malawi government to treat its citizens with the equality it has promised.
Find your Representative (top left corner of Home page)
Find your Senator (top right corner of Home page)
Contact Representative Baldwin and Representative Kirk’s offices and tell them you support this Resolution. (188.8.131.5206 and 184.108.40.20635)
With the 2010 World Cup quickly approaching, football fans around the world have been cheering on their teams since the qualification process began in August 2007. In total, 32 countries will match off at 12 locations throughout South Africa. As the first African country to host a World Cup, South Africa rapidly constructed new stadiums, upgraded security measures and encouraged spectators to visit their beautiful country. Recent headlines range from lackluster ticket sales to Beckham’s Achilles heel injury which renders him unable to participate in the games.
Regardless of the tournament’s final outcome, one thing is for sure, South Africa will be under scrutiny for how it has overcome the nation’s long history of Apartheid rule. Leaders are hoping to show the world it has moved beyond a system of violent racial discrimination to truly become a “Rainbow Nation”. Unfortunately Amnesty International won’t actually be competing as we have little to offer by means of star soccer athletes; but nevertheless feels it imperative to contribute our own team to the mix of international heroes. That is why we are proud to announce Amnesty International’s team of human rights defenders from around the world. Stand Up United is a team of 11 special individuals who have one common goal: equality, dignity and justice for all. Without further ado, let me introduce you to this award winning team of individuals:
1. Mukhmed Gazdiev from the Russian Republic of Ingushetia is still searching for his son who has not been seen since he was reportedly abducted in 2007. He campaigns relentlessly to raise awareness of alleged involvement of security forces in disappearances.
2. Nataša Kandić is a Serbian lawyer and human rights activist. She continues to challenge impunity for war crimes committed by Serbian military, police and paramilitary forces during the wars during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
A court date has been set for the trial of Malawi nationals Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. The charge? Engaging in “unnatural practices between males and gross public indecency,” punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The evidence? A traditional engagement ceremony between the two men held December 27th, 2009. After determining there was enough evidence to hold the men for trial, the date is set for May 18th. In the meantime, both Monjeza and Chimbalanga are confined in inadequate prison conditions. Mr. Monjeza is ill, and while receiving some medical treatment, his condition is no doubt made worse by the conditions of his imprisonment.
The announcement came on the heels of the President of Malawi Bingu wa Mutharika’s marriage to his second wife. President wa Mutharika enjoys the liberty to marry while Mr. Chimbalanga and Mr. Monjeza are subject to public humiliation and shunning for their desire to join lives. President wa Mutharika, who had previously remained relatively quiet on the matter, purportedly recently denounced the two men describing homosexuality as “foreign” and “un-African”. No doubt, such a declamation taints the prospect for a fair trial for these two men and further emphasizes the need for local and international pressure to demonstrate the global call for LGBT rights.
It is time Malawi take up the charge of progressive democratic policy making and release these two men. Not only does the Chimbalanga-Mojeza trial provide a test case for LGBT rights, but given Malawi’s current role as African Union Chair, a favorable decision for the defendants can serve as a model for LGBT rights specifically and human rights advocacy generally in Africa.
The demand and culture for human rights always needs a seed. Some case or event which highlights the dramatic needs for more robust human rights laws and awareness in a country. No matter the country, no matter the right, it is an occasion for all people who believe in the rights and freedoms of every individual to have their voice heard. The call for LGBT rights goes beyond individual liberty. It also addresses public health concerns surrounding HIV/AIDS in Africa. The lack of openness on homosexuality produces a chilling effect on efforts to combat HIV/AIDS regionally.
Help us stand up and speak out against the trial of Steven and Tiwonge, and remind the Malawian government that criminalization of homosexuality and sexual identity is banned under many of the treaties Malawi has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Check back at Amnesty USA’s web site after June 1st to take action on behalf of these men and others as we highlight this case as part of a larger Pride action. We also urge you to take part in a local PRIDE activity in June to stand in solidarity with these two men.
Last week, the U.S. Senate was unanimous as it passed a resolution calling on members of the Ugandan Parliament to reject the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill and to repeal similar laws aimed at discriminating against individuals based on their sexual orientation.
Co-sponsors of the Senate resolution stressed the “universality of human rights,” while sending a message to Secretary of State Clinton to more closely monitor human rights abuses that are motivated by sexual orientation. We have been a part of the fight against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and have expressed serious concerns over the bill, joining other human rights groups in calling for the bill’s repeal. The passing of the Senate’s resolution is a victory for human rights defenders and a boost for our calls for equality and human rights.
Widespread international criticism of the bill has led the Ugandan Parliament to establish a committee to review the bill, which recommended changes be made to the bill but without actually calling for the bill’s repeal. The bill is currently before the Parliamentary and Legal Affairs Committee. The Committee has given no indication of when they would begin to debate the bill but we are continuing to monitor this very closely.
Msia Clark, Uganda Country Specialist, contributed to this post
Back in early January, we called for the unconditional release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, two men who were arrested after having a traditional engagement ceremony in Malawi. They were charged with “unnatural practices between males and gross public indecency” and were reportedly beaten while in custody. In Malawi, homosexual acts can carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. And just yesterday, the BBC reported that there will be a full trial for the two men beginning in April. The men deny the charges and will soon have to begin calling defense witnesses.
This case serves as a sad reminder of the state of LGBT rights in much of Africa. In Uganda, the debate rages on over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was introduced in December 2009. In Kenya, anti-gay rallies have been held and attacks have been carried out against openly gay citizens. And in Malawi, religious leaders are responding to the trial by reaffirming their stance against homosexuality. In this climate of hate, those crying out for acceptance cannot be heard.
The trial of these men, purely on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation, is a gross violation of their rights to freedom of conscience, expression and privacy - Véronique Aubert, Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Director
Help us stand up and speak out against the trial of Steven and Tiwonge, and remind the Malawian government that criminalization of homosexuality and sexual identity is banned under many of the treaties Malawi has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
Rebecca Friedrichs contributed to this blog post.
Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika will purportedly participate in a traditional engagement ceremony on Valentine’s Day with the lovely woman he has been seen escorting of late. I wish him all the happiness in the world. But at the same time Mutharika looks forward to sharing his life with the person of his choice, two men remain jailed in Malawi because they tried to do the same.
At the end of December 2009, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested following their participation in a traditional engagement ceremony. They are currently on trial for “unnatural practices between males” and “gross public indecency.” They remain imprisoned after being denied bail, purportedly for their own safety, and face public ridicule when appearing in court. They have applied for relief to the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of their arrest under Malawian law but have yet to receive a ruling.
Following the arrest of Monjeza and Chimbalanga, three things have happened. First, Malawi’s gay rights movement has become much more active. Second, Malawi has harshly cracked down on gay rights activists. Third, the international community has mobilized, demanding the release of these two men and the repeal of homosexuality as a crime in Malawi. I view two of these outcomes as very positive, and unfortunately, one of them not so much. The arrest of someone for putting up posters that read “Gay Rights are Human Rights” is not only harassment, but it is violative of freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Malawi is a signatory.
Malawi is also pushing back against the international community, stating other nations and individuals have no right to dictate the laws in their country, raising fears Malawi will only entrench further on its anti-homosexuality stance in the face of this criticism. As a general rule, I appreciate the concept of sovereignty and that other States should stay out of the business of running a nation. However, when persons are discriminated against, their rights violated, their civil liberties trampled, their basic freedoms curtailed and their safety endangered purely because of who they are as individuals, it is the duty of all human beings to stand up and say that this is wrong.
President Mutharika looks to have a very busy year between settling into a new marriage and assuming the African Union chairmanship. The increased visibility and prestige of chairing the African Union makes it incumbent upon Mutharika to set positive standards for all of the continent. Monjeza and Chimbalanga return to court tomorrow as their case resumes. Stand up and do your duty as a global citizen and urge Malawi to treat all its citizens, gay and straight, president and average Joe, with love.