Long Awaited Day in Court for Gay Couple in Malawi

flagA 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.

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

8 thoughts on “Long Awaited Day in Court for Gay Couple in Malawi

  1. Much as I appreciate comments from other quarters sympathising with the duo people should understand that Malawi is a sovereign state with its own laws. The duo have broken laws of Malawi. Dont forget the couple that broke the laws of China by kissing in public earlier this year. Whats so special with Malawi? We are no longer a colony of some developed country. Why is it that the west would like us to copy their life style and not vice versa? Be there on the 18th and if they are guilty they must serve their sentence. If you are not satisfied make them emigrate to your country to live the life of dogs[even dogs behave]. The two are worse than dogs.

  2. Much as I appreciate comments from other quarters sympathising with the duo people should understand that Malawi is a sovereign state with its own laws. The duo have broken laws of Malawi. Dont forget the couple that broke the laws of China by kissing in public earlier this year. Whats so special with Malawi? We are no longer a colony of some developed country. Why is it that the west would like us to copy their life style and not vice versa? Be there on the 18th and if they are guilty they must serve their sentence. If you are not satisfied make them emigrate to your country to live the life of dogs[even dogs behave]. The two are worse than dogs.

  3. I appreciate your response Moses. It seems that you are making a very strong claim for sovereign state rights. I support this idea but you must surely agree that a sovereign nation should be held accountable for the international treaties to which they have signed. The blog highlights two of these important treaties. The first, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the second, more notably in this case, the African Charter on Human and People's Rights.

    Human rights are not a concept owned by the West or any one nation. Human rights are the privilege of EVERY human being and citizen of the world. As stated, no matter the country, no matter the right, this is an occasion to endorse individual liberty. I am not sure to what you are referring regarding the kiss in China but I am sure that were it a gross violation of human rights, Amnesty International would have commented. I know they are quite outspoken on issues of human rights abuses in China.

    Furthermore, I would simply reference the piece of the blog that describes this not simply as a matter of human rights, but as a public health issue as well. This sort of social shunning does little to address larger problems facing a nation. This is not unique to Malawi or Africa, but is true the world over.

    Finally, I simply ask, what are the goals Malawi has for itself as a nation? Does imprisoning two adults who are engaging in a consensual relationship bring Malawi closer to these goals? Or perhaps farther away? I encourage you to consider the implications to your position.

    Kindly,
    The Malawi Country Specialist, Amnesty International US

  4. Interesting conversation. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Personally, I lean more towards the feelings expressed in the blog. While I don't agree with Moses' attack on the two men, I can see where he is coming from in terms of feeling like western values are being forced on his culture.

    The rights of consenting adults argument starts to fall apart when you look at issues such as the right to practice polygamy. What if an organization from a Muslim country fought for polygamous marriage rights in the US? The thought would be laughable to most Americans. The backlash would be enormous.

    And yet, for many Muslims, it is part of their religion. Often those who immigrate to America have to leave behind second and third wives in order to live here. And we forbid their children to take multiple wives when they become adults.

    I'm definitely not advocating for polygamy in the US. But in the west, it seems like we're more focused on fighting for rights that are more in line with our own culture.

  5. I appreciate your response Moses. It seems that you are making a very strong claim for sovereign state rights. I support this idea but you must surely agree that a sovereign nation should be held accountable for the international treaties to which they have signed. The blog highlights two of these important treaties. The first, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the second, more notably in this case, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

    Human rights are not a concept owned by the West or any one nation. Human rights are the privilege of EVERY human being and citizen of the world. As stated, no matter the country, no matter the right, this is an occasion to endorse individual liberty. I am not sure to what you are referring regarding the kiss in China but I am sure that were it a gross violation of human rights, Amnesty International would have commented. I know they are quite outspoken on issues of human rights abuses in China.

    Furthermore, I would simply reference the piece of the blog that describes this not simply as a matter of human rights, but as a public health issue as well. This sort of social shunning does little to address larger problems facing a nation. This is not unique to Malawi or Africa, but is true the world over.

    Finally, I simply ask, what are the goals Malawi has for itself as a nation? Does imprisoning two adults who are engaging in a consensual relationship bring Malawi closer to these goals? Or perhaps farther away? I encourage you to consider the implications to your position.

    Kindly,
    The Malawi Country Specialist, Amnesty International US

  6. Interesting conversation. Thanks for your thoughtful response. Personally, I lean more towards the feelings expressed in the blog. While I don’t agree with Moses’ attack on the two men, I can see where he is coming from in terms of feeling like western values are being forced on his culture.

    The rights of consenting adults argument starts to fall apart when you look at issues such as the right to practice polygamy. What if an organization from a Muslim country fought for polygamous marriage rights in the US? The thought would be laughable to most Americans. The backlash would be enormous.

    And yet, for many Muslims, it is part of their religion. Often those who immigrate to America have to leave behind second and third wives in order to live here. And we forbid their children to take multiple wives when they become adults.

    I’m definitely not advocating for polygamy in the US. But in the west, it seems like we’re more focused on fighting for rights that are more in line with our own culture.

  7. When two people are in love, they should not be incarcerated. Esspecially for that length of time. It is sad that our world is so biased. I do hope their sentence and punishment should be dropped. They were so in love, they took a chance on committment and expressing their love for one another. I do feel for them.

  8. When two people are in love, they should not be incarcerated. Esspecially for that length of time. It is sad that our world is so biased. I do hope their sentence and punishment should be dropped. They were so in love, they took a chance on committment and expressing their love for one another. I do feel for them.