Gay couple sentenced to maximum 14 years in Malawi
A judge sentenced a couple to the maximum 14 years in prison for unnatural acts and gross indecency Thursday under Malawi’s anti-gay legislation.
The harsh sentence had been expected in this conservative southern African country after the same judge convicted Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza earlier this week under laws dating from the colonial era.
Chimbalanga, a 20-year-old hotel janitor, and his unemployed partner were arrested Dec. 27, the day after they celebrated their engagement with a party at the hotel where Chimbalanga worked - an apparent first in Malawi.
"These offenses carry with them a sense of shock against the morals of the Malawi society," Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa said Thursday, explaining why he felt compelled to impose the harshest sentence.
Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa director of Amnesty International called the sentence "an outrage."
Her rights watchdog has adopted Chimbalanga and Monjeza as prisoners of conscience, and would "continue to campaign on this matter and to work tirelessly to see that they are released unconditionally as soon as possible," Kagari told The Associated Press by telephone from her office in Kampala, Uganda.
Mark Heywood, director of the South Africa-based AIDS Law Project called the sentence "outrageous and a violation of human rights." He said activists should hold protests around the world against Malawi.