May 18th, 2010
07:43 AM ET

Malawi gay couple convicted of indecency, unnatural acts

[Updated at 7:43 a.m.] A court in Malawi has found a gay couple guilty of gross indecency and unnatural acts, according to witnesses who heard the verdict Tuesday.

Sentencing will take place May 20. The two young men face up to 14 years of hard labor.

Steven Mojenza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested in December at their home in Blantyre, Malawi, for professing their love in a traditional engagement ceremony. They were rounded up after news reports surfaced, charged under colonial-era sodomy laws and detained at Chichiru Prison without bail.

Their arrests received some popular support in the conservative southern African nation, but sparked outrage among gay rights activists and human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which have called for the release of the couple.

"We have a reached a point in Malawi where we need to decide whether we regard minority groups as equal to others in terms of their human rights," said Gift Trapence, executive director of the human rights group Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), who was in the courtroom Tuesday.

"Malawi is using laws brought in by the British," he said. "They need to be updated."

Lawyers hope to take the matter to the High Court.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi - as it is in most African nations - and government officials have said they are simply upholding the law.

"Most people are repugnant towards homosexuality," said Canaan Phiri, secretary general of the Malawi Council of Churches. "People do not declare their homosexuality because people are against this."

But activists in Malawi say the country's constitution - which outlaws discrimination - is being violated. The Malawi Law Society said the prosecution of the two men has been driven by prejudice - not jurisprudence.

[Posted at 6:41 a.m.] A Malawian couple has been found guilty of gross indecency and unnatural acts, according to a non-governmental association that witnessed the verdict Tuesday.

Sentencing will take place May 20.

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Filed under: Gay and lesbian
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Sez

    john 316;

    They are like the Mideast with oil. They have minerals and oil that the west needs, and so civilized people must put up with their nonsense

    why you bringing irrelavent comment now? Of course because Middle east has the oil and the minerals, that gives US the right to just go in as they please and kill millions of people for it right?

    Well i hope you sufficate in that oil just like millions of civilians have died because of it

    I hate this WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 18, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. whatev

    These guys are human beings. Those spewing hatred against them on this site I hope you know you are the wolves in sheeps clothing the Bible speaks about. Take a good look at yourself....i mean really disgusting.

    May 18, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |

    GOOD! torture!!!

    May 18, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. DrewinPortland

    I hope that these guys find a way out of this... Living in that country, they were aware of the risks, and by being arrested, has sparked this conversation. Change never came without sacrifice, and these two have shown just that. I hope that Malawi will see this someday soon...

    May 18, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sean

    Wow a lot of people bring religion into this. That whats wrong with the world. Religion belongs in your home and place of worship THATS IT. Viewing this from a completely NON FANTASY outlook these men should be released immediately. On the other hand as is usual with most news articles there is probably a lot more to this than meets the eye. This may have been a planned incident used to bring attention to the old law and get it off the books. I am betting that neither of these men end up doing any real time but I can't imagine what the conditions are like for them in the meantime .I am sure that they will end up being released in the end and the law will be repealed.

    Now that doensn't mean people should do something. It is public pressure that will help these men everyone needs to express thier outrage

    May 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. obamagirl38

    It is so unfortunate that the citizens of some countries cannot freely express themselves.

    May 18, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaydawg

      ok let me just say that indecency in the first place is wrong now top that off with a gay person doing that and its worse if a gay guy was being indecent in front of me i would have words for him because i dont swing that way and i dont aprove and i sure as hell dont want to see another man showing himself to me yuk yuk yuk.

      May 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brandon

    Intolerance against those who Love should not be tolerated in ANY country of the world! It is difficult to understand why laws are enacted to come between two responsible adults who are in Love with one another. But backward countries like that do not ever seem to learn that the world is moving forward not backwards. Unfortunately, people like these two men are being given harsh, unusual, and cruel punishments for simply loving one another. Sad and Incredible!

    The U.S.A. used to think that way also before Lawrence v. Texas came along. In that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Sodomy is no longer illegal in any state of the nation. Thus, it effectively prevents the arrest and detention of any consenting adults who live in America.

    Malawi, wake up and smell the coffee! This is the Twenty-First Century, not the Sixteenth where you apparently still live in. Change your draconian, punitive laws and get with it and leave those who Love, which is an inherent right, alone!

    May 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tim

    Interesting chat board– an amazing amount of different levels of society, education and understanding– so many shades of gray.... some love, some hate, some well versed, some spewing vitriol..some sound like beck and limbaugh- a few like olberman..some people with compassion who attempt to care and understand–others who lash out at anyone who has a different lifestyle... who's right–who's wrong ? we all have different views and ideas– thats fair enough.

    but life is really about education, traveliing, meeting new people, listening to great and new ideas, learning about global history and politics... taking the time to really think out a position.. throw away the knee jerk reaction folks- understand what you are talking about.. don't use God or the bible as your crutch or excuse– grow and become a member of a planet that needs solutions to complex problems.

    And keep smiling. lose the hatred people. there is is love in the air - and where there is love there will be peace. Live and let live. Don't judge someone based on your limited interpretations of the way you see the world. You may be wrong. Learn to evolve and support those around you.

    May 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      Well done! Eloquent, thoughtful, and dead on! Thank you, Tim!

      May 18, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. anniepop

    I have always said "live and let live". in the history of the world we are here for just a blink of the eye, we should show more tolerance and understanding of the diversity of the human race. In this day and age i find it amazmg that there are still countries and people who cannot comprehend , or accept, that we cannot help who we fall in love with. what difference does it make? as long as the two people love and respect each other and are happy it should not be anyone else's business.

    May 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. keith

    Time to jail all for goings on in the bedroom.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
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