"I love my husband and laws should not prohibit love."
- Tionge Chimbalanga
On December 28, 2009, police officers arrested Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tionge Chimbalanga, 20, at their home, charging them under Sections 153 and 156 of the Malawian penal code for "unnatural offences" and "indecent practices between males." These arrests occurred two days after Steven and Tionge conducted a traditional engagement ceremony attended by family and friends in Chileka, Blantyre, an event that was widely reported in the Malawian press.
On January 6, 2010, they were taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, where Tionge was forced to undergo a medical examination, including an anal exam, to confirm the sodomy charges. IGLHRC sees this as a violation of the rights to dignity and privacy in the Malawian Constitution and such exams have been shown to have no forensic value. The following day, both Steven and Tionge were subjected to psychiatric evaluation.
They are now being held in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre and bail has repeatedly been denied. Despite critical constitutional and other legal issues raised by their lawyers in the High Court and appeals to the Chief Justice to have the case heard as a Constitutional Court issue, the criminal trial continues. If found guilty, they face imprisonment for up to 14 years with hard labor.
Their arrest, mistreatment and continued detention violate Malawian constitutional guarantees to equality and freedoms of association, conscience, opinion and expression as well as regional and international non-discrimination and privacy provisions. Malawi's Constitution specifically prohibits, and guarantees equal and effective protection from, discrimination on a number of grounds including "race, sex....or other status." Despite these various protections, the two remain incarcerated in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre where they may remain until May 18, 2010, when the court rules on their case.
Need for Action:
It is clear that local, regional and international attention to this case has helped lessen the physical and verbal abuse that the two had experienced in the early days of their incarceration. Tionge has encouraged visits by activists for the hope and courage these have given them.
IGLHRC is launching this campaign to show solidarity with the couple, raise their spirits, and remind authorities that people around the world are watching. We call upon all our friends and partners to send cards and letters to Tionge and Steven.
Send your brief words of solidarity and support to both Tionge and Steven via express international mail today.
It will mean a great deal as they await the Malawian court's ruling on May 18.
P.O. Box 30117
P.O. Box 30117
Published on March 11, 2010 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization