OutRight Action International and CEDEP Condemn Malawi Court's Conviction of Imprisoned Couple

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Chivuli Ukwimi, Health and Human Rights Officer, OutRight Action International Cape Town Office: (27) 21 469 3700; Mobile: (27) 79 443 3938;  Dunker Kama, Administrator, CEDEP Blantyre Mobile: (265) 8888 7 5050; Email:shorinjkenpo@yahoo.co.uk For further contact information see below.
Read OutRight Action International's letter on this case and the human rights situation in Malawi »


(Cape Town, May 18, 2010) – OutRight Action International and the Malawian organization the Center for the Development of People (CEDEP) condemn today's conviction by a Magistrate Court in Blantyre, Malawi of Tiwonge ("Tionge") Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza for "unnatural offences" and "indecent practices between males" under Sections 153 and 156 of the Malawi Penal Code. The court is expected to sentence the two on May 20th and issue the full judgment within three weeks. Chimbalanga and Monjeza face up to fourteen years in prison with the possibility of hard labour. "By ignoring basic standards of evidence, this ruling undermines Malawi’s commitment to the rule of law and jeopardizes the human rights of all Malawians,” said Chivuli Ukwimi, Health and Human Rights Officer of OutRight Action International. “In a context of escalating persecution of LGBT Malawians, this decision damages life-saving efforts to address HIV and AIDS." Monjeza and Chimbalanga have been held in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre since December 28, 2009, when they were arrested after a traditional engagement ceremony attended by family and friends. Following their arrest, Chimbalanga was forced to undergo an involuntary anal examination and both were forced to undergo an involuntary psychiatric evaluation. The two were repeatedly denied bail – a decision severely criticized as unjust by the Malawi Law Society. There have been reports of the court allowing the couple to be subjected to humiliating treatment during the trial, including being mocked for their relationship by trial attendees and being forced to clean up vomit after one of them became ill. Today's ruling is part of a broader pattern of mounting pressure and persecution on LGBT people by authorities in Malawi. This persecution has come from the highest levels of government. On April 23rd, President Bingu wa Mutharika reportedly denounced homosexuality as "un-Malawian," "evil" and "disgusting" and linked it to corruption, violence, theft and prostitution. Days later, on April 26th and again on the 27th, police appeared at a conference on the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations in HIV/AIDS programming. Police demanded the names of conference organizers, seized copies of the conference program, and inquired about specific individuals believed to be in attendance. Police refused to present a warrant or justification for the intimidation. Speaking after today's decision, Dunker Kamba, Adminstrator of CEDEP, said, "This judgment is going to drive the gay community further into hiding. It is not only a ruling against Steven and Tionge but the whole LGBT community in Malawi and Africa." These incidents violate the Constitution of Malawi and the human rights treaties to which Malawi is a party. The continued discrimination and persecution of people on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity threatens to undermine the right to privacy, the right to non-discrimination and equality before the law, and freedoms of assembly, association, opinion, and expression that all Malawians are entitled to enjoy.

 

 

The mission of OutRight Action International 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, OutRight Action International is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit https://outrightinternational.org/ for more information.