HRC Blog

State Department and House Members Speak Out Against the Conviction of Gay Malawi Couple

The State Department and members of the U.S. House of Representatives have spoken out against the detention and conviction of a gay Malawi couple. The couple, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, were convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts after being arrested in Malawi for celebrating their engagement with a public ceremony. Monjeza and Chimbalanga are the first same-sex couple in Malawi to declare their commitment publicly. They have been jailed in a maximum security prison since their arrest on December 28, 2010 and face up to 14 years in prison for the offense. Sentencing is expected on Thursday. The arrests, and now their conviction, have sparked outcry from human rights organizations across the world. In a press briefing on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley stated:

The United States is deeply disappointed in today’s conviction of same-sex couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza in Malawi. We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as a step backward in the protection of human rights in Malawi. The Government of Malawi must respect the human rights of all of its citizens. The United States views the decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as integral to the protection of human rights in Malawi and elsewhere in the world.

Since taking office, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a vocal critic of laws criminalizing homosexuality. Speaking at last year’s White House World AIDS Day, Secretary Clinton made clear that the United States must “stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide.” Additionally, on May 6, 2010, Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives (H. Res. 1335) that calls for an immediate release of the gay couple. The resolution also urges the Government of Malawi to urgently address the pervasive violation of human rights in Malawi and the criminalization of conduct by consenting adults. UPDATE: Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, the gay couple who dared to stage a same sex wedding in Malawi, have been sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labor.

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