Malawian Gay &Trans Couple now Convicts Waiting Sentence of up to 17 Years

BREAKING NEWS May/29/2010: Steven Monjeza and Transwoman Tiwonge Chimbalanga recently sentenced to 14 years of hard labor for marrying now free after "pardon" by Mutharika, president of Malawi during UN Sec. Gen. visit.

Chivuli Ukwimi, Health and Human Rights Officer, IGLHRC Cape Town
Office: (27) 21 469 3700; Mobile: (27) 79 443 3938;
Email: cukwimi@iglhrc.org

Dunker Kama, Administrator, CEDEP Blantyre
Mobile: (265) 8888 7 5050;
Email: shorinjkenpo@yahoo.co.uk

For further contact information see below.
Read IGLHRC's letter on this case and the human rights situation in Malawi »

(Cape Town, May 18, 2010) - The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and the Malawian organization the Center for the Development of People (CEDEP) condemn today's conviction by a Magistrate Court in Blantyre, Malawi of Tiwonge ("Tionge") Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza for "unnatural offences" and "indecent practices between males" under Sections 153 and 156 of the Malawi Penal Code. The Court is expected to sentence the two on May 20th and issue the full judgment within three weeks. Chimbalanga and Monjeza face up to fourteen years in prison with the possibility of hard labour.

"By ignoring basic standards of evidence, this ruling undermines Malawi's commitment to the rule of law and jeopardizes the human rights of all Malawians," said Chivuli Ukwimi, Health and Human Rights Officer of IGLHRC. "In a context of escalating persecution of LGBT Malawians, this decision damages life-saving efforts to address HIV and AIDS."

Monjeza and Chimbalanga have been held in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre since December 28, 2009, when they were arrested after a traditional engagement ceremony attended by family and friends. Following their arrest, Chimbalanga was forced to undergo an involuntary anal examination and both were forced to undergo an involuntary psychiatric evaluation. The two were repeatedly denied bail - a decision severely criticized as unjust by the Malawi Law Society. There have been reports of the Court allowing the couple to be subjected to humiliating treatment during the trial, including being mocked for their relationship by trial attendees and being forced to clean up vomit after one of them became ill.

Today's ruling is part of a broader pattern of mounting pressure and persecution on LGBT people by authorities in Malawi. This persecution has come from the highest levels of government. On April 23rd, President Bingu wa Mutharika reportedly denounced homosexuality as "un-Malawian," "evil" and "disgusting" and linked it to corruption, violence, theft and prostitution. Days later, on April 26th and again on the 27th, police appeared at a conference on the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations in HIV/AIDS programming. Police demanded the names of conference organizers, seized copies of the conference program, and inquired about specific individuals believed to be in attendance. Police refused to present a warrant or justification for the intimidation.

Speaking after today's decision, Dunker Kamba, Adminstrator of CEDEP, said, "This judgment is going to drive the gay community further into hiding. It is not only a ruling against Steven and Tionge but the whole LGBT community in Malawi and Africa."

These incidents violate the Constitution of Malawi and the human rights treaties to which Malawi is a party. The continued discrimination and persecution of people on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity threatens to undermine the right to privacy, the right to non-discrimination and equality before the law, and freedoms of assembly, association, opinion, and expression that all Malawians are entitled to enjoy.

Additional Contact Information:
Gift Trapence, Director, CEDEP BlantyreMobile: (265) 888 50972; Email: gtrapence@yahoo.co.uk, directorcedep@yahoo.com
Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director, IGLHRC (currently in Berlin)Mobile: (347) 515 0330; Email: cjohnson@iglhrc.org
Jessica Stern, Director of Programs, IGLHRC New York1- 212- 430-6014; Email: jstern@iglhrc.org
For general media inquiries, please contact:
Sam Cook, Director of Communications, IGLHRC 1-212-430-6023; Email: scook@iglhrc.org

The mission of The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is advancing human rights for everyone, everywhere to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.
Photo copyright World Economic Forum/Eric Miller. Bingu Wa Mutharika, President of Malawi, captured during the Opening Plenary of the World Economic Forum on Africa 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa, June 4, 2008.

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