HRW: Release Malawi lovers

By |2018-01-16T17:41:38-05:00January 21st, 2010|News|

by Rex Wockner

International News Briefs

Malawi’s government should drop all charges against a gay couple who are facing up to 14 years in prison, Human Rights Watch said Jan. 12 in a letter to justice and home affairs officials.
On Dec. 26, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, held a traditional engagement ceremony in the city of Blantyre.
After newspapers reported on the event, police arrested the couple at their home Dec. 28, charging them with “unnatural offenses” and “indecent practices between males” under sections 153 and 156 of Malawi’s criminal code.
A judge denied the couple bail, and on Jan. 6 they were taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, where Chimbalanga was examined for “evidence” he has had gay sex. The following day, both men were subjected to psychiatric testing, also without their consent.
“Prosecuting two adults just because they affirm their love is a terrible injustice,” said Dipika Nath of HRW’s LGBT rights program. “To subject individuals to spurious medical examinations against their will shows grave disregard for their fundamental human rights as well as for the public welfare.”
The couple headed to trial on Jan. 15 but the proceedings were immediately adjourned after Chimbalanga vomited and collapsed in court. His lawyers said he is suffering from severe malaria. London’s Times said that no one came to Chimbalanga’s aid. He eventually managed to get back up on his own, after which he was made to get a mop and bucket and clean up his vomit, the Times said.
Monjeza and Chimbalanga remain jailed in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre. Their lawyers told HRW the couple are being verbally abused and possibly beaten, and that they are not receiving adequate food and other necessities.
If found guilty of all charges, the men face up to 14 years in prison with hard labor.
“These arrests create a climate of fear in Malawi and intimidate human rights advocates, negating the progress made in the National AIDS Strategy to stem the spread of HIV and AIDS (via) outreach efforts (aimed) at men who have sex with men,” the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said Jan. 12.

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.