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Malawian Judge Sentences Couple to 14 Years in Prison; Human Rights Groups Outraged

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By GLAAD |
May 20, 2010

A Malawian judge on Thursday sentenced a Malawi couple to 14 years in prison with hard labor for "unnatural acts and gross indecency." Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman, and Steven Monjeza were arrested in December for holding a symbolic engagement ceremony, The Associated Press reported.

"This sentence sends a strong and unacceptable message that discrimination is legally justified in the Malawi justice system." said Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa program director at Amnesty International. "Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga should never have been arrested or prosecuted. That they have been sentenced to 14 years of hard labor is an outrage."

Amnesty International adopted the couple as prisoners of conscience and has repeatedly called for their immediate and unconditional release.

The couple’s attorney, Mauya Msuku, said his clients would appeal the decision.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley also spoke out against the harsh sentence on Thursday:

"The United States is appalled by today's sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years of hard labor," said Crowley. "We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as a step backward in the protection of human rights in Malawi. We are particularly disturbed by the severity of the sentence. The government of Malawi must respect the human rights of all of its citizens.”

Crowley went on to say that the decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity is “integral to the protection of human rights in Malawi and elsewhere in the world."

GLAAD will continue to keep a close on on the media’s coverage of this disturbing story and work to spotlight the harms and injustices LGBT people face around the world. Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org

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