U.K. Lawmakers Denounce Malawi Gay Trial

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[Global: UK-Africa]

Sixty-five British Members of Parliament (MPs) have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 564), which condemns Malawi's arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who are accused of a homosexual relationship.

A British politician, John Hemming, an MP for Birmingham Yardley who also doubles as a Group Chair for Liberal Democrat tabled the EDM and gained other 64 signatures, all condemning the continue incarceration of the two Malawian couple.

Hemming was also behind the EDM that applauded the actions of the leadership of the UK Scout Association in raising concerns about Uganda’s MP David Bahati's conduct through the World Organisation of the Scout Movement. The Uganda MP Bahati from the country’s ruling party the National Resistance Movement (NRM), represents Ndorwa West constituency.

“The World Organisation of the Scout Movement believes that Mr Bahati's conduct is discriminatory, incompatible with and contrary to the values and belief in the sanctity of life held by the Scouting Movement worldwide,” MP Hemming was quoted noting to the House of Commons about MP Bahati an architect of the Anti-gay Bill now before Uganda parliament.

The two Malawi men Steven Monjeza, 26 and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20 who have harmed no one could be jailed for up to 14 years if convicted.

They were denied a bail at a court in the city of Blantyre, when presiding Judge Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa claimed Monjeza and Tiwonge were at risk of mob violence and would be safer in custody – a claim then rejected by defendants and their lawyers.  Their trial verdict is expected on Monday, March 22, 2010.

Steven and Tiwonge have suffered abuse and humiliation since their arrest.

The EDM, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Hemming, urges the release of the two men, the dropping of all charges and the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Malawi.

This came amidst of growing hunt, arrest and prosecution of homosexuals in Malawi, despite the massive international condemnation. The single voice from the International community, urge both the Ugandan and Malawian governments to consider the gay and lesbians in their respective countries.

“Many letters of protest have been sent to the Malawian High Commissioner in London, Dr. Francis Moto, urging that Tiwonge and Steven be released and all charges dropped, on the grounds that they have harmed no one,” said Peter Tatchell the London-based human rights campaigner.

Tatchell added: “The men’s prosecution and the ban on homosexuality violate the equality and Non-discrimination provisions of the Constitution of Malawi and of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Malawi has signed and
pledged to uphold.”

Tatchell has been working with Malawian friends to support the men on trial and to oppose their prosecution. He helped organise the EDM in the British Parliament.

This is not the first time for Tatchell to engage Malawian government, in the 1970s and 80s; he campaigned for the release of political prisoners in Malawi during the dictatorship of Dr Hastings Banda and for improved wages and conditions for Malawian workers on British-owned farms and estates in the Mulanje region.

According to Tatchell, the EDM has been communicated to the Malawian High Commissioner in London.

“It will hopefully add to pressure for the acquittal of Steven and Tiwonge and for the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality by the Government of Malawi," Tatchell added.

"We hope this parliamentary motion will send a strong signal from the House of Commons to the Malawian government that the criminalisation of consenting same-sex relations is a violation of human rights. Malawi's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have a right to privacy, equality, respect and dignity, under the country's constitution and under international humanitarian law.

"Malawi is a sovereign nation and we respect its independence. But we hope that its government will recognise that this trial and the criminalisation of homosexuality are contrary to the human rights principles that Malawi has embraced since its transition from dictatorship to democracy.

"We appeal to the kindness and generosity of the Malawian people and government:  please show mercy to Steven and Tiwonge and do not persecute your fellow Malawian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

"OutRage! supports the many Malawian people who oppose homophobia and the prosecution of these two men. It is encouraging to hear people in Malawi say: live and let live. "Tiwonge and Steven have harmed no one. They should not be on trial," concluded Tatchell.

EDM 564 - reads: “This House notes the same-sex engagement ceremony in late December 2009 of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.”

It calls upon the President of Malawi to ensure that they are released from jail and that all charges against them for homosexual relations are dropped; calls upon the Government of Malawi to decriminalise homosexuality in accordance with the equality and non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and to ensure the human rights of all its citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

See the EDM on the UK Parliament website:

The duo remains incarcerated contrary to the country’s Constitution of Malawi - Article 20: Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are...guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.

"Or other status" means or on other grounds, including sexual orientation.

See here: http://www.icrc.org/IHL



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