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article imageMalawi judge: Gay couple guilty of 'unnatural acts'

By Igor I. Solar     May 18, 2010 in World
Blantyre - A guilty verdict was issued today for a gay couple by a court in Malawi. The judge convicted both men, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, of engaging in acts "against the order of nature". The couple could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
Both men were arrested December 2009 after celebrating their engagement ahead of a wedding planned for 2010. They have been in jail ever since and could now face 14 years in prison. The two had pleaded not guilty. Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa convicted the two men today (2010/05/18) and the final sentence is expected Thursday May 20.
Priti Patel, a representative of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), based in Johannesburg, said that there still the chance of an appeal for Monjeza and Chimbalanga on the basis that the conviction violates the country's 1994 constitution. However, there is the precedent that an earlier attempt by their defense to have the case thrown out on those grounds was rejected.
Protestors demonstrated in support of the couple in London recently
Protestors demonstrated in support of the couple in London recently
Picture: Brett Lock, OutRage!
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and other 36 countries in Africa. In Uganda, lawmakers are debating a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and may consider capital punishment for “repeat offenders.” South Africa is among the few African countries that recognise gay rights.
Malawi's government has defied international criticism over the prosecution of Monjeza and Chimbalanga. Several months ahead of issuing the verdict, Malawian Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto said that it was clear the two had broken the law.
There is concern in Malawi that Monjeza and Chimbalanga's sentence could hamper the fight against HIV/AIDS, in a country that has been devastated by the disease.
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