Gay Malawian Couple Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

gay flagToday 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.

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40 thoughts on “Gay Malawian Couple Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

  1. This is going to make me sound like a horrible person but here it goes. It's sad but they knew it was illegal and they knew they could get in legal trouble. I don't agree with that law but it is a law and they have to either abide by it or face the consequences if caught.
    14 years is a bit overboard but that's the price they have to pay for doing something illegal.
    I'm in full support of same-sex marriage but I choose to support it in a way that is both legal and able to change our current laws.

  2. Jessica-
    If Rosa Parks followed your reasoning, black people would still be required to sit in the back of the bus.
    Sarah

  3. You're right, Jessica. You sound like a horrible person. Your lack of compassion is astounding.

  4. James-
    Play nice, please. Jessica is more than entitled to her opinion and it is not an uncommon one. And in many instances she is correct, it is often far more appropriate to challenge unfair situations in a manner that does not break an actual law. The last things we want is for people to engage in violent protest and terrorism to advance a cause. However, a time honored way to challenge a law is to violate it through civil disobedience. This brings the matter before the courts, allows for a constitutional challenge and public awareness about the issue. Now, as far as we know, the couple in this case were not trying to be symbols of a cause or make a political statement. They are just so much in love they want to shout it from the rooftops. That should be met with applause, not condemnation. There should be more such love in this world.
    Thanks for being offended on their behalf, James, and let's all work together to get them freed.
    Sarah

  5. This is ridiculous. Fullest penalty of the law. Hooray for unbiased legal systems. Why do we sign treaties? What benefit does this serve? What message does this send?

  6. This is going to make me sound like a horrible person but here it goes. It’s sad but they knew it was illegal and they knew they could get in legal trouble. I don’t agree with that law but it is a law and they have to either abide by it or face the consequences if caught.
    14 years is a bit overboard but that’s the price they have to pay for doing something illegal.
    I’m in full support of same-sex marriage but I choose to support it in a way that is both legal and able to change our current laws.

  7. Jessica-
    If Rosa Parks followed your reasoning, black people would still be required to sit in the back of the bus.
    Sarah

  8. In reply to those who don't agree with me-
    I never said that civil disobedience is always wrong. And in this case, they were fully in the right for challenging the law but it was a law and they should have to suffer the consequences. Rosa Parks broke a law and she took her punishment but no one seems to remember that.

  9. You’re right, Jessica. You sound like a horrible person. Your lack of compassion is astounding.

  10. James-
    Play nice, please. Jessica is more than entitled to her opinion and it is not an uncommon one. And in many instances she is correct, it is often far more appropriate to challenge unfair situations in a manner that does not break an actual law. The last things we want is for people to engage in violent protest and terrorism to advance a cause. However, a time honored way to challenge a law is to violate it through civil disobedience. This brings the matter before the courts, allows for a constitutional challenge and public awareness about the issue. Now, as far as we know, the couple in this case were not trying to be symbols of a cause or make a political statement. They are just so much in love they want to shout it from the rooftops. That should be met with applause, not condemnation. There should be more such love in this world.
    Thanks for being offended on their behalf, James, and let’s all work together to get them freed.
    Sarah

  11. This is ridiculous. Fullest penalty of the law. Hooray for unbiased legal systems. Why do we sign treaties? What benefit does this serve? What message does this send?

  12. In reply to those who don’t agree with me-
    I never said that civil disobedience is always wrong. And in this case, they were fully in the right for challenging the law but it was a law and they should have to suffer the consequences. Rosa Parks broke a law and she took her punishment but no one seems to remember that.

  13. la maggiore indecenza è che non si abbia rispetto per il proprio prossimo rispettando le scelte di vita che appartengono a ciascuno di noi.
    Nessuno deve essere condannato per per i propri sentimenti che non arrecano danno al prossimo.

  14. Jessica-
    First, thank you for your comments. I should have said that from the beginning. Second, we seem to be in agreement about civil disobedience and the need to challenge discriminating laws in order to have them over turned. I think where we diverge is over the application of punishment. If it were the case that they spent a few days in jail and paid a fine, similar to that of Ms. Parks, the case would likely not ever have garnered the current level of international scrutiny. However, these men are facing 14 years imprisonment. Prison conditions in Malawi are not pleasant to say the least. There is a good chance they will not survive their incarceration. And the law is inherently unfair. So the concern that I have is that you think it is appropriate that these two men suffer horrific living conditions and likely fairly severe levels of abuse for 14 years because they broke a law that is inherently discriminating and unfair and should never be a law in the first place.
    Sarah

  15. la maggiore indecenza è che non si abbia rispetto per il proprio prossimo rispettando le scelte di vita che appartengono a ciascuno di noi.
    Nessuno deve essere condannato per per i propri sentimenti che non arrecano danno al prossimo.

  16. Jessica-
    First, thank you for your comments. I should have said that from the beginning. Second, we seem to be in agreement about civil disobedience and the need to challenge discriminating laws in order to have them over turned. I think where we diverge is over the application of punishment. If it were the case that they spent a few days in jail and paid a fine, similar to that of Ms. Parks, the case would likely not ever have garnered the current level of international scrutiny. However, these men are facing 14 years imprisonment. Prison conditions in Malawi are not pleasant to say the least. There is a good chance they will not survive their incarceration. And the law is inherently unfair. So the concern that I have is that you think it is appropriate that these two men suffer horrific living conditions and likely fairly severe levels of abuse for 14 years because they broke a law that is inherently discriminating and unfair and should never be a law in the first place.
    Sarah

  17. Wow. So much consternation over this ruling. Everyone seems to be missing an important point here; this is a foreign court. You are all imposing your own values on another people.

    Gay rights aren't right or wrong inherently. They are considered a good thing here because of our values. We value the pursuit of happiness here in the USA.

    In America, yes, this ruling would be unprecedented, unfair – ridiculous, even. We have a great legal system with lots of built-in protections for the people that other countries don't. Here, we VALUE individual liberty and the spunky little guy who challenges our laws and beliefs. Obviously, in Malawi they don't.

    And, these guys live there. They obviously knew what kind of trouble they were in for. They were defiant of the law, and so they got the smack down. Sucks to be them, really. (no pun intended.)

    Hey, maybe taking lots of drugs would make me happy in the USA. I LOVE me some drugs, so I'm going to have a heroin party at the hotel where I work. Should AI protect me from my own stupidity because I want to shout from the mountain-tops that I'm breaking the law? No, probably not.

  18. Wow. So much consternation over this ruling. Everyone seems to be missing an important point here; this is a foreign court. You are all imposing your own values on another people.

    Gay rights aren’t right or wrong inherently. They are considered a good thing here because of our values. We value the pursuit of happiness here in the USA.

    In America, yes, this ruling would be unprecedented, unfair – ridiculous, even. We have a great legal system with lots of built-in protections for the people that other countries don’t. Here, we VALUE individual liberty and the spunky little guy who challenges our laws and beliefs. Obviously, in Malawi they don’t.

    And, these guys live there. They obviously knew what kind of trouble they were in for. They were defiant of the law, and so they got the smack down. Sucks to be them, really. (no pun intended.)

    Hey, maybe taking lots of drugs would make me happy in the USA. I LOVE me some drugs, so I’m going to have a heroin party at the hotel where I work. Should AI protect me from my own stupidity because I want to shout from the mountain-tops that I’m breaking the law? No, probably not.

  19. Warren-
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.
    Sarah-
    I never once said I think the punishment was just or fair but in their country what they did was illegal. End of story. You do something illegal, you get caught, you go to jail. Why is that so hard to understand? They even said they knew what they were doing was illegal so it's not like they can claim ignorance. Also, civil disobediance isn't always bad but if you do something illegal regardless what the reason is, you run the risk of getting caught and punished. If I was in their shoes I would have done the same thing and if/when I got caught, I'd take the punishment if convicted.

  20. Warren-
    I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way.
    Sarah-
    I never once said I think the punishment was just or fair but in their country what they did was illegal. End of story. You do something illegal, you get caught, you go to jail. Why is that so hard to understand? They even said they knew what they were doing was illegal so it’s not like they can claim ignorance. Also, civil disobediance isn’t always bad but if you do something illegal regardless what the reason is, you run the risk of getting caught and punished. If I was in their shoes I would have done the same thing and if/when I got caught, I’d take the punishment if convicted.

  21. This is a violation of a basic human right: the right to love another person no matter whether that person is of the same sex as you. This right should be respected HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE!
    Gay rights is human rights and people need to stand up for themselves and for they feel and believe, no matter what the government or a religious leader says. Do you really think that gay rights were given to people in your country Warren and Jessica, just because they are gay? They had to fight for it!! Yes, even in your "wonderful" country. OK??

  22. This is a violation of a basic human right: the right to love another person no matter whether that person is of the same sex as you. This right should be respected HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE!
    Gay rights is human rights and people need to stand up for themselves and for they feel and believe, no matter what the government or a religious leader says. Do you really think that gay rights were given to people in your country Warren and Jessica, just because they are gay? They had to fight for it!! Yes, even in your “wonderful” country. OK??

  23. Well I disagree with the writer and ALL of those whose comments I read.

    There is NOTHING "gay" about the sexual perversion of Sodomy and other homosexual behaviors. I had friends (man and wife [whom I knew years before I knew him]) who both died the excruciating death of AIDS because he chose to allow his unnatural lusts for the flesh of men to control him rather than choosing to exercise the self-control of marital fidelity.

    Our society's refusing to embrace abstinence toward every possible relationship outside of the traditional marital relationship has America and the whole earth writing in the degradation of sexual transmitted disease epidemics of proportions that we did not dream we would see when I was a kid just exposed to the realities of sexual and homosexual infidelities 55 to 60 years ago.

    Though the media and others, who seem to embrace wickedness as one would embracing a spouse, have done a great job of painting the practice of Sodomy and other homosexual perversions as a wonderful lifestyle, we would not have ever been torn by the pain of AIDS if men of our world had not chosen to become slaves of their unnatural affections rather than exercising the discipline of loving one woman for a lifetime.

    As you can tell, I agree with the judge in this case. (Now if the men in this case had been remorseful and repentant, I think we would have found the judge would have been willing to act more like Christ Jesus when he told the woman caught in the act of adultery to "go and sin no more." [By-the-way, she was the victim of an unjust "court" just as is happening today in Muslim countries where women are executed for adultery and the men are ALWAYS free to go commit adultery again!])

    The problem with our society is that we paraphrase Christ Jesus' words to say, "Go and sin SOME more." Then we wonder why we are reaping such harsh consequences of our behavior!

    I want to remind you that Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” He was encouraging everyone who is bowed down under the weight of any sin, that He will give new life, peace and joy to those who will come to Him choosing to make Him Lord of their lives. (Those words were not lightly spoken off the cuff: He was tortured, suffered, died and rose from the dead [one of the most verified events in history] to redeem us from our sins.)

    He and I invite you to embrace Him as Lord.

    Grandpa John

  24. Well I disagree with the writer and ALL of those whose comments I read.

    There is NOTHING “gay” about the sexual perversion of Sodomy and other homosexual behaviors. I had friends (man and wife [whom I knew years before I knew him]) who both died the excruciating death of AIDS because he chose to allow his unnatural lusts for the flesh of men to control him rather than choosing to exercise the self-control of marital fidelity.

    Our society’s refusing to embrace abstinence toward every possible relationship outside of the traditional marital relationship has America and the whole earth writing in the degradation of sexual transmitted disease epidemics of proportions that we did not dream we would see when I was a kid just exposed to the realities of sexual and homosexual infidelities 55 to 60 years ago.

    Though the media and others, who seem to embrace wickedness as one would embracing a spouse, have done a great job of painting the practice of Sodomy and other homosexual perversions as a wonderful lifestyle, we would not have ever been torn by the pain of AIDS if men of our world had not chosen to become slaves of their unnatural affections rather than exercising the discipline of loving one woman for a lifetime.

    As you can tell, I agree with the judge in this case. (Now if the men in this case had been remorseful and repentant, I think we would have found the judge would have been willing to act more like Christ Jesus when he told the woman caught in the act of adultery to “go and sin no more.” [By-the-way, she was the victim of an unjust "court" just as is happening today in Muslim countries where women are executed for adultery and the men are ALWAYS free to go commit adultery again!])

    The problem with our society is that we paraphrase Christ Jesus’ words to say, “Go and sin SOME more.” Then we wonder why we are reaping such harsh consequences of our behavior!

    I want to remind you that Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” He was encouraging everyone who is bowed down under the weight of any sin, that He will give new life, peace and joy to those who will come to Him choosing to make Him Lord of their lives. (Those words were not lightly spoken off the cuff: He was tortured, suffered, died and rose from the dead [one of the most verified events in history] to redeem us from our sins.)

    He and I invite you to embrace Him as Lord.

    Grandpa John

  25. Grandpa John,

    I feel that as a Christian woman, I need to be a voice of objection to the sort of theological position that uses the scriptures to condemn people. If the life of Jesus Christ taught us nothing, it was to be compassionate to all of our brothers and sisters because God created everyone in her image and likeness and we all have inherent divine providence to be treated with that birthright. A great religious American leader described this quality:

    “The voice of God in behalf of the African slave was still echoing in our land, when the voice of the herald of this new crusade sounded the keynote of universal freedom, asking a fuller acknowledgment of the rights of man as a Son of God, demanding that the fetters of sin, sickness, and death be stricken from the human mind and that its freedom be won, not through human warfare, not with bayonet and blood, but through Christ's divine Science. God has built a higher platform of human rights, and He has built it on diviner claims. These claims are not made through code or creed, but in demonstration of "on earth peace, good-will toward men."Human codes, scholastic theology, material medicine and hygiene, fetter faith and spiritual understanding. (A true understanding of God) rends asunder these fetters, and man's birthright of sole allegiance to his Maker asserts itself…
    The heavenly law is broken by trespassing upon man's individual right of self-government."

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu commented on the outcome of the trial in Malawi, remarking "Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice."

    I encourage you to reconsider your position.

  26. Grandpa John,

    I feel that as a Christian woman, I need to be a voice of objection to the sort of theological position that uses the scriptures to condemn people. If the life of Jesus Christ taught us nothing, it was to be compassionate to all of our brothers and sisters because God created everyone in her image and likeness and we all have inherent divine providence to be treated with that birthright. A great religious American leader described this quality:

    “The voice of God in behalf of the African slave was still echoing in our land, when the voice of the herald of this new crusade sounded the keynote of universal freedom, asking a fuller acknowledgment of the rights of man as a Son of God, demanding that the fetters of sin, sickness, and death be stricken from the human mind and that its freedom be won, not through human warfare, not with bayonet and blood, but through Christ’s divine Science. God has built a higher platform of human rights, and He has built it on diviner claims. These claims are not made through code or creed, but in demonstration of “on earth peace, good-will toward men.”Human codes, scholastic theology, material medicine and hygiene, fetter faith and spiritual understanding. (A true understanding of God) rends asunder these fetters, and man’s birthright of sole allegiance to his Maker asserts itself…
    The heavenly law is broken by trespassing upon man’s individual right of self-government.”

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu commented on the outcome of the trial in Malawi, remarking “Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.”

    I encourage you to reconsider your position.

  27. I don't think we are inforcing our 'western ways' on Africa by supporting those citizens who feel they are being abused and repressed. They do not feel it is 'their way' or justified to be refused the right to have the freedom of speech and power over their own lives that we do.

    Just becuase something is the law, at the time, does not make it right.

    It was the law once here in the west that a man may beat his wife with sticks or 'rightfully rape' her becuase she was his 'legal property'. This, although it was the law at the time was not comonly considered right and because women of the time were luckily offered some sort of voice to speak out about this was seen as wrong and over ruled. See? We need to support these people in voicing their beliefs and hopes for themselves in their own country so they can live the lives they believe that they should be.

  28. I don’t think we are inforcing our ‘western ways’ on Africa by supporting those citizens who feel they are being abused and repressed. They do not feel it is ‘their way’ or justified to be refused the right to have the freedom of speech and power over their own lives that we do.

    Just becuase something is the law, at the time, does not make it right.

    It was the law once here in the west that a man may beat his wife with sticks or ‘rightfully rape’ her becuase she was his ‘legal property’. This, although it was the law at the time was not comonly considered right and because women of the time were luckily offered some sort of voice to speak out about this was seen as wrong and over ruled. See? We need to support these people in voicing their beliefs and hopes for themselves in their own country so they can live the lives they believe that they should be.

  29. I am a young college-age Christian and have a personal perspective that homosexual behavior is not pleasing to God, based on a defined word from the Bible, which I take as the Word of God. I also believe that sexuality, which is one of the strongest things on this earth, either binds or frees people depending on whether or not they submit their desires to God. I know many people who do not agree with this, and I respect and love them all.

    I have a mentor at work who is a gay man and is about to get married. I love him as a brother and support his freedom to choose the way he uses his sexuality. Do I think his leaning towards wanting another man are wrong? No. This may be a part of how he was born. Do I think acting out on these desires is good for him or pleases God? No. But I'm glad he can be a gay man and still experience acceptance at work and in the world.

    I do not think that anyone should be denied the freedom of expressing what they think or feel. Only God should limit expression of speech, and I believe he will. But the law should never suppress freedom of speech and expression.

    So I guess I disagree and sort of agree with everyone posting on this blog. Thanks for fighting for freedom.

  30. I am a young college-age Christian and have a personal perspective that homosexual behavior is not pleasing to God, based on a defined word from the Bible, which I take as the Word of God. I also believe that sexuality, which is one of the strongest things on this earth, either binds or frees people depending on whether or not they submit their desires to God. I know many people who do not agree with this, and I respect and love them all.

    I have a mentor at work who is a gay man and is about to get married. I love him as a brother and support his freedom to choose the way he uses his sexuality. Do I think his leaning towards wanting another man are wrong? No. This may be a part of how he was born. Do I think acting out on these desires is good for him or pleases God? No. But I’m glad he can be a gay man and still experience acceptance at work and in the world.

    I do not think that anyone should be denied the freedom of expressing what they think or feel. Only God should limit expression of speech, and I believe he will. But the law should never suppress freedom of speech and expression.

    So I guess I disagree and sort of agree with everyone posting on this blog. Thanks for fighting for freedom.