Magazine article New African

The Saga of the Malawian Gay Couple: Sentenced to 14 Years' Imprisonment Each. but Getting a Pardon Nine Days Later from a President under Pressure from International Donors, the Gay Couple in Malawi (See NA, Feb. 2010, P.78) Would Be Re-Arrested If They Continue Their Relationship, Reports Lameck Masina from Lilongwe. for the Time Being, They Have Split Up

Magazine article New African

The Saga of the Malawian Gay Couple: Sentenced to 14 Years' Imprisonment Each. but Getting a Pardon Nine Days Later from a President under Pressure from International Donors, the Gay Couple in Malawi (See NA, Feb. 2010, P.78) Would Be Re-Arrested If They Continue Their Relationship, Reports Lameck Masina from Lilongwe. for the Time Being, They Have Split Up

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws. However as the head of state. I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release without condition ... " With these words, spoken on 29? May, the president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, amnestied a gay couple who were sentenced on 20 May to 14 years in prison with hard labour for committing "buggery or having carnal knowledge [of one another] against the order of nature".

Steve Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20 were arrested on 28 December 2009, two days after they held the first-ever gay engagement ceremony at a lodge in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre. A magistrates' court in Blantyre charged them with "carnal knowledge against the order of nature and gross indecency between males, contrary to Sections 153 and 156" of the Malawian penal code.

Their arrest and prosecution attracted heavy criticisms and condemnations from international rights groups and Malawi's major donors, including the USA and Britain.

A two-day visit to the country by the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon at the end of May, added more pressure on President Mutharika who had earlier resisted calls to pardon the couple.

However announcing the pardon, the president made it clear that he had not done this out of pressure from anyone but purely on humanitarian grounds. Ban Ki-moon echoed similar sentiments when speaking in the Malawian parliament, where he briefed Mps on the release of the two homosexuals.

But on his return from the Africa-France summit in Nice six days after the pardon, president Mutharika took a swipe at international donors whom he accused of using the gay issue to discredit his government. He told reporters that he had pardoned the gays as a response to international pressure. He had done this only because he did not want to subject the country to unnescessay suffering because of two people he described as "confused and misguided".

Mutharika said he strongly believed that the gay couple were not doing this alone but with others pulling the strings behind the scenes.

"Chimbalanga and Monjeza were being used," the president said. "I was not about to let the country suffer because of these two misguided and confused men. That is why I forgave them, considering that to err is human and to forgive is divine."

The president emphasised that this did not mean that he condoned their actions, which were, he said, "disgusting, demeaning and a disregard of our culture, religion and laws". A Catholic by faith, Mutharika had no kind words for Chimbalanga (the bride) dubbed Aunt "Tiwo" (shortened from his first name Tiwonge), saying his body movement, body language and exaggerated facial expressions are stupid. "I am watching these donors to see what they will say next. In fact I have laid a trap for them to see what they will do next." Mutharika said, and ordered government officials not to comment on the pardon but leave the ball ins his court.

Although some NGOs and Western donors have welcomed "Mutharika's decision", most Malawians have expressed displeasure because they think it sets a bad precedent for the nation.

They accused the donors of taking advantage of the country's poverty by threatening to withhold funding if it failed to pardon the gay couple. Such resentment was evident among parliamentarians who were debating the 2010-2011 national budget when Ban Ki-moon broke the news to them a few hours after private talks with president Mutharika. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.