The New York Times, CNN and several other outlets are reporting today that the Malawi couple, jailed for being who they are, have been pardoned by Malawi’s president, Bingu wa Mutharika. Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman, and Steven Monjeza were arrested last December after their wedding made headlines around the world. The couple had received the maximum sentence, 14 years imprisonment with hard labor because of so-called “unnatural acts and gross indecency.”
According to the CNN report:
President Bingu wa Mutharika announced his pardon of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga after meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kamanga said.
Authorities arrested Monjeza and Chimbalanga in December at their home in Blantyre, Malawi after the couple professed their love in a traditional engagement ceremony. Police discovered the couple when local newspapers reported on their engagement ceremony.
CNN also reports that Human Rights Groups are praising the news:
The director of an organization that helped provide legal support to the couple, Gift Trapence of the Center for the Development of People, welcomed the news.
The president's decision provides an example to African governments and the world in general, he said.
A BBC report quotes UN chief Ban Ki-moon as calling the president's decision, "courageous." He went on to say, "This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist."
We here at GLAAD are relieved to hear that Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have been pardoned. We also urge media outlets to report this story accurately. Most mainstream reports continue to call them a gay couple, but it is clear from many sources that Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a woman.
We'll keep you posted on any new developments in this story.