Saturday, May 29, 2010
Gay Malawi Couple Released, Pardoned
Two people sentenced to 14 years in prison for engaging in what the government considered a same-sex wedding ceremony have been pardoned by Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika, who has ordered their immediate release. Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were jailed in December and then convicted and sentenced last week on charges of gross indecency and unnatural acts.
“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion, and our laws,” Mutharika said after meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, who was in Malawi to lobby for the men’s release. “However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions." According to several reports and activists in South Africa, Chimbalanga identifies as a transgender woman and the couple consider themselves a male-female couple.
Upon hearing of the pardon, the White House released the following statement: "The White House is pleased to learn of President Bingu wa Mutharika's pardon of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. These individuals were not criminals and their struggle is not unique. We must all recommit ourselves to ending the persecution and criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. We hope that President Mutharika's pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country's history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe."
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