Malawi gay couple’s release brings praise from Obama

Posted Jun 1, 2010 by Andrew John
The release of a gay Malawian couple given 14 years’ hard labour for “unnatural acts” and “gross indecency” has brought praise from US President Barack Obama.
Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika
Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika
Wikimedia Commons
The verdict and sentence on Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, caused international outrage.
They were found guilty having been in jail since they held an engagement ceremony last December.
Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika pardoned the pair at the weekend after talks with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting Malawi at the time.
Now, according to Voice of America, the pardon “has drawn praise from US President Barack Obama, and from Britain and a Malawian gay rights group.”
But the move has also raised concerns. Voice of America says: “Journalist Watipaso Mzungu of the Malawi Daily Times newspaper said Malawians’ reactions have been mixed. And he said President Mutharika’s decision continues to raise a lingering question in a country that imposes stiff bans on homosexual behavior.”
The paper then quotes Mzungu as saying: “Although they are not against the presidential pardon because he has just exercised his presidential powers, he [Mutharika] has to answer a few lingering questions. If he is not bound to the international pressure, why is he only pardoning these two, because there are other gay people who were arrested here in Malawi. Why is he only releasing these two men?”