Bail Denied In Malawi Gay Case

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Giving his ruling at a court in the city of Blantyre, judge Nyakwawa
Usiwa-Usiwa claimed Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga
were at risk of mob violence and would be safer in custody – a claim
rejected by the defendants and their lawyers.

[Global: Africa]

A Malawian court has refused bail to two men who are on trial, after they celebrated their engagement to be married in a traditional African ceremony in late December last year.

Giving his ruling at a court in the city of Blantyre, judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa claimed Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were at risk of mob violence and would be safer in custody – a claim rejected by the defendants and their lawyers.

“Steven and Tiwonge are the first same-sex couple to begin the process of getting married in Malawi,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage! in London, who has been liaising with human rights defenders inside Malawi to support the men on trial.

“The two men are being held in Chichiri Prison. Their trial, on charges of homosexuality,  began on Monday 11 January in Blantyre, but has been adjourned until 25 January after Tiwonge fell ill with malaria,” added Tatchell.

“The two defendants face a maximum sentence of 14 years jail, under Malawi’s anti-gay law, section 153 of the penal code, which was originally imposed on the country by the British colonisers during the nineteenth century.

“Both men deny the charges and will challenge the prosecution on the grounds that it is illegal under the equal rights and
non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution.

See details of the Malawian constitution and African human rights law below.

“Tiwonge and Steven are quite fearful and dejected. They were jeered in court and have been disowned by their families. Conditions in Chichiri jail are appalling. They say they have been beaten in prison.

They were forced to undergo intimate internal medical examinations, against their will, to determine whether they have had sex.

They were also compelled to undergo psychiatric assessments, although there is no evidence that they are mentally unwell.

“Visitors have taken them food and clothing and given them some money. They encouraged them to stand firm and reassured them that they have support inside Malawi and worldwide. This has lifted their spirits.

“Steven and Tiwonge now have a good legal team, including Mauya Msuku and Felix Tandwe.

“They have the support of the Malawian human rights group, the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), which does HIV prevention work and campaigns to defend the welfare of marginalised communities, including migrants, prisoners, sex workers and men who have sex with men.

“This prosecution is illegal. It is contrary to section 20 of the Malawi constitution, which outlaws all discrimination and it violates
the equal treatment provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold.


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