by Sokari Ekine, Black Looks,20 May 2010
On Tuesday, 18th of May 2010, a court in Blantyre, Malawi Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts. The couple were arrested in December 2009 after celebrating their engagement and had their bail applications denied. They have been in jail ever since and have been given a brutal and completely unjust 14 year sentence with hard labour setting a dangerous precedent across the region. The arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga is part of an increasing attempt by some African governments to silence lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender people and to send us back into the closet – This will never happen! In a press statement Phumi Mtetwa of the Gay & Lesbian Equality spoke out against the verdict. …….
The increasing incitement, in multiple African countries especially Zimbabwe, Malawi and Uganda, against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is a gross violation of human rights. Homophobic laws are being used as political decoys by politicians instead of facing the real problems of poverty and declining standards of living on the continent. The door has been opened to reverse and retard a post-colonial progress on all human rights. Human rights can only be ensured through an unwavering commitment to equality, freedom and justice for all. The South African government, as the only state in Africa to recognise equality for sexual minorities, must be called to defend the South African constitution by offering asylum to the two men convicted in Malawi and negotiating their immediate release from prison.
The South African government, as the only state in Africa to recognise equality for sexual minorities, must be called to defend the South African constitution by offering asylum to the two men convicted in Malawi and negotiating their immediate release from prison.
We should also be wary of those voices in the international community that seek to racialise the homophobic actions of some African political and religious leaders, knowing fully well that homophobia is a global issue and remains entrenched in religious fundamentalism. We need to stop harping back to what was during the colonial period and focus on what is happening now whether this be the origins of homophobia or whether homosexuality existed here or there. The fact is they exist today and homophobia should not be used as a ruse for neo-coloniaist civilizing missions anymore than for “political decoys” for real problems that we face on the continent such as poverty. But more importantly the focus should be on the struggle to free Steven and Tiwonge and to ensure this never happens to anyone else
In another a statement the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission [IGLHRC] – Cape Town made the following comment on the case
“This harsh sentence compounds the impact of an already unjust conviction,” said Chivuli Ukwimi, IGLHRC Health and Human Rights Officer. “Its devastating effect on Steven and Tionge is just the beginning. It will endanger lives by driving at-risk communities underground, beyond the reach of programs to address HIV and AIDS.”
In his ruling, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa stated, “The engagement and the living together as husband and wife of the two accused persons, who are both males, transgresses the Malawian recognized standards of propriety since it does not recognize the living of a man with another as husband and wife. Both these acts were acts of gross indecency.” These views were similar to those expressed by the State Prosecutor, Barbara Mchenga, who asked the court to “consider the scar this offence will leave on our morality.”
Dunker Kama, Administrator of CEDEP, responded by stating, “There is nothing immoral or indecent about love. The only thing immoral or indecent is throwing innocent people in jail for more than a decade.”
Everyone who supports human rights should send a protest note to the Malawian embassy in their country and join an immediate campaign to free Steven and Tiwonge. Contact your government and all other political parties to take a stand in defence of the human right of Steven and Tiwonge. Inform the media (Malawian and others) about your outrage and actions. Activate all your national and international networks to create multiple campaigns for the liberation of Steven and Tiwonge. Please email your actions/press clippings, etc. for documentation to: fullliberation AT googlemail DOT com
Links: IGLHRC Press Statement