Amnesty International condemns prison sentence

JOHANNESBURG, May 20, 2010 (AFP) — Amnesty International on yesterday condemned the 14-year prison sentence handed down to a gay couple in Malawi for holding the country’s first same-sex wedding.

“This sentence sends a strong and unacceptable message that discrimination is legally justified in the Malawi justice system,” said Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa director at Amnesty International.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, and Steven Monjeza, 26, were arrested on December 28 after their symbolic wedding and accused of violating “the order of nature”. They have been in jail ever since.

“Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga should never have been arrested or prosecuted. That they have been sentenced to 14 years of hard labour is an outrage,” said Kagari.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and the couple was arrested in December 2009 under sodomy laws.

Their sentencing has been criticised by Washington and London, who expressed dismay at Malawi’s anti-gay laws.

“We will continue to campaign on this matter and work tirelessly to see that they are released unconditionally and as soon as possible,” said Kagari.

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