IGLHRC and CEDEP Condemn Unjust 14-Year Sentence for Malawian Couple



Chivuli Ukwimi, Health and Human Rights Officer, IGLHRC
Cape Town
Office: (27) 21 469 3700; Mobile: (27) 79 443 3938; (26) 4855 933 936

Gift Trapence, Director, CEDEP
Mobile: (265) 888 509732
Email: gtrapence@yahoo.co.uk, directorcedep@yahoo.com
For further contact information see below.

(Cape Town, May 20, 2010) -- The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Malawi Center for the Development of People (CEDEP) are outraged by the sentence of 14 years with hard labour imposed today by a Malawian court on Tiwonge (“Tionge”) Chimbalanga (20) and Steven Monjeza (26). The Magistrate's Court in Blantyre imposed the maximum sentence following the conviction of the two on May 18 for “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices between males” under Sections 153 and 156 of the Malawi Penal Code.

"This harsh sentence compounds the impact of an already unjust conviction," said Chivuli Ukwimi, IGLHRC Health and Human Rights Officer. "Its devastating effect on Steven and Tionge is just the beginning. It will endanger lives by driving at-risk communities underground, beyond the reach of programs to address HIV and AIDS."

In his ruling, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa stated, "The engagement and the living together as husband and wife of the two accused persons, who are both males, transgresses the Malawian recognized standards of propriety since it does not recognize the living of a man with another as husband and wife. Both these acts were acts of gross indecency." These views were similar to those expressed by the State Prosecutor, Barbara Mchenga, who asked the court to "consider the scar this offence will leave on our morality."

Dunker Kama, Administrator of CEDEP, responded by stating, "There is nothing immoral or indecent about love. The only thing immoral or indecent is throwing innocent people in jail for more than a decade."

The harsh sentence sends a negative message to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Malawians who already face discrimination and persecution. It is also likely to have an adverse effect on much needed efforts to address HIV and AIDS.

"The government of Malawi has double standards," said Gift Trapence, CEDEP Director. "Its own national strategic framework on HIV/AIDS includes men who have sex with men. Now, it is imprisoning them."

This case and the criminalization of homosexuality in the Malawi Penal code amount to a violation of the human rights and protections to which Malawi is ostensibly committed through its own constitution and the regional and international human rights treaties to which it is party.

IGLHRC and CEDEP will continue to support Monjeza and Chimbalanga, including an appeal of this verdict and the repeal of all laws that unjustly discriminate against LGBT Malawians.

For more information about this case, see IGLHRC and CEDEP's press release and letter to President Bingu wa Mutharika (5/18/10).

Additional Contact Information:

Dunker Kama, Administrator, CEDEP
Mobile: (265) 8888 7 5050; Email:shorinjkenpo@yahoo.co.uk

Jessica Stern, Director of Programs, IGLHRC
New York
(212) 430-6014; Email: jstern@iglhrc.org

For general media inquiries, please contact:

Sam Cook, Director of Communications, IGLHRC
New York
(212) 430-6023; Email: scook@iglhrc.org

The mission of The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is advancing human rights for everyone, everywhere to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.