Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Laws Should Not Prohibit Love

On December 28, 2009, police officers arrested Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, at their home, charging them under Sections 153 and 156 of the Malawian penal code for "unnatural offences" and "indecent practices between males." These arrests occurred two days after Steven and Tiwonge conducted a traditional engagement ceremony attended by family and friends in Chileka, Blantyre, an event that was widely reported in the Malawian press.

On January 6, 2010, they were taken to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, where Tiwonge was forced to undergo a medical examination, including an anal exam, to confirm the sodomy charges. IGLHRC sees this as a violation of the rights to dignity and privacy in the Malawian Constitution and such exams have been shown to have no forensic value. The following day, both Steven and Tiwonge were subjected to psychiatric evaluation.

They are now being held in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre and bail has repeatedly been denied. Despite critical constitutional and other legal issues raised by their lawyers in the High Court and appeals to the Chief Justice to have the case heard as a Constitutional Court issue, the criminal trial continues. If found guilty, they face imprisonment for up to 14 years with hard labor.

Their arrest, mistreatment and continued detention violate Malawian constitutional guarantees to equality and freedoms of association, conscience, opinion and expression as well as regional and international non-discrimination and privacy provisions. Malawi's Constitution specifically prohibits, and guarantees equal and effective protection from, discrimination on a number of grounds including "race, sex....or other status." Despite these various protections, the two remain incarcerated in Chichiri Prison in Blantyre where they await judgement scheduled for March 22, 2010. (International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Comission)

Join the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in sending cards and letters to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who have been imprisoned in Malawi on criminal charges of "unnatural offenses" and "indecent practices between males" after their traditional engagement ceremony. They are awaiting judgment in their case on March 22, 2010. These cards will show Steven and Tiwonge—and relevant authorities—that the international community is watching and stands in solidarity with them.

Contact Information:

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Chichiri Prison, P.O. Box 30117, Chichiri, Blantyre, Malawi
Steven Monjeza, Chichiri Prison, P.O. Box 30117, Chichiri, Blantyre, Malawi

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