Malawi couple Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labor for “gross indecency” and “unnatural acts” for having an engagement ceremony in late December. Madonna, who many have been calling on throughout this human rights travesty to make a statement, and who is building a school and has adopted two children from Malawi, said:
“I am shocked and saddened by the decision made today by the Malawian court, which sentenced two innocent men to prison. As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. Today, Malawi took a giant step backward. The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved. I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi—and around the world—to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all.”
And also today the White House released a statement through Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
“The United States strongly condemns the conviction and harsh sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi. The criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity is unconscionable, and this case mars the human rights record of Malawi. We urge Malawi and all countries to stop using sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for arrest, detention, or execution.”
Thank you Madonna for saying something about this horrible sentencing. I don’t see any other public figures speaking out about this. No one. Nothing. Madonna is the first one and her voice in the public carries weight and raises awareness and eyebrows by the people that need to be made aware. SO THANK YOU MADONNA for your statement.
As for The White House. PROVE your words with sanctionsand holding back of aid to Malawi until Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga are released and grant them asylum.
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who have been jailed in Malawi since late December after they had a public engagement ceremony, were found guilty of “gross indecency” and “unnatural acts”. Since that time, the couple has been imprisoned except for brief, occasional visits to a courtroom during which they were ridiculed and mocked by homophobic mobs.
“Blantyre chief resident magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa issued the ruling yesterday. The couple are facing up to 14 years in prison with hard labour after becoming the first gay couple in Malawi to publicly commit themselves to each other…Angry residents and relatives from Machinjiri township, on the outskirts of Blantyre, say they will not allow them to return home if they are set free. A retired economist, Thindwa, added: “We are giving them moral support by bringing them food, money and clothes to prison.” The rule comes as a blow to gay rights movements across the continent, sparking fears that the ruling could be viewed as a test case and set an unwelcome precedent. Peter Tatchell, the veteran British gay rights campaigner, told the Guardian last week he received a defiant message from Chimbalanga that said: ‘I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.’ Monjeza – who is described as thin and weak with jaundiced eyes – told him: ‘We have come a long way and even if our relatives are not happy, I will never stop loving Tiwonge.'”
Gay sex remains illegal in 37 countries in Africa and is widely vilified. A recent poll by the Pew Research Centre found that 98% of people in Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia disapprove of homosexuality. Since legal advances in South Africa, a new wave of activists have begun to take a stand and campaign for gay rights in several countries including Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, Zimbabwe and other countries