News / Africa

Malawi Court Keeps Same-Sex Couple in Jail, Pending Verdict

Multimedia

Audio
  • Interview with Malawi Daily Times Reporter Watipaso Mzungu

A high court judge’s denial of bail to Malawi’s first openly gay couple as their trial in Blantyre enters its final phase continues to draw international attention from gay rights advocates.  Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi, and the couple, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, who staged a traditional wedding ceremony in December, could face up to 14 years in jail if convicted. 

Malawi Court Keeps Same-Sex Couple in Jail, Pending Verdict
Malawi Court Keeps Same-Sex Couple in Jail, Pending Verdict
 

  
The case has drawn condemnation from 34 British MP’s, and Scottish parliamentarians.  Amnesty International has demanded the couple’s unconditional release.  But journalist Watipaso Mzungu, who is covering the trial for the Daily Times newspaper, says that the international criticism has been counterproductive.
 

President Bingu Wa Mutharika (right), who was sworn in as Malawi's chief executive, was elected Chairman of the African Union on Sunday, 31 January 2010
President Bingu Wa Mutharika (right), who was sworn in as Malawi's chief executive, was elected Chairman of the African Union on Sunday, 31 January 2010

  
“Malawi has its own values and structures, which should be respected.  So we don’t necessarily expect MPs from Britain or anywhere else to dictate to Malawi on what they should do,” he said.
   
Mzungu contends that strongly rooted nationwide opposition to same-sex weddings is not easily abandoned, even in a democracy like Malawi.
   
“Almost every religion is against homosexuality, so it’s just a very small minority group that wants homosexuality to be passed or like to accept homosexuality in Malawi.  But almost everybody is against homosexuality,” he notes.
   
The two defendants have three attorneys, backing from international gay rights organizers and at least three Malawian NGO’s, including the Centre for Development of People (CEDEP).  But Mzungu says his travels across the country register very little public support for legislation to decriminalize the offense.
   
“Just last week on Friday, I was in Mwanza, a certain district in the southern region again.  I was talking to different people, including the traditional leaders, the common people.  I was asking them if maybe they would like a homosexuality law to be passed in the constitution of Malawi.  But they seem to be against that law.  They don’t want Malawi to allow homosexuality,” he said.
 

Malawi Court Keeps Same-Sex Couple in Jail, Pending Verdict
Malawi Court Keeps Same-Sex Couple in Jail, Pending Verdict

  
CEDEP itself has been hard-pressed by government and religious leaders of Malawi’s many religious denominations, which include Christians, Moslems, and Hindus during the trial.  A political controversy arose last month over whether the organization’s director Gift Trapence and three human rights defenders were ordered into police custody for playing a role in defense of the same-sex defendants.
   
Malawi police deny the activists were arrested.  Mzungu explains one incident in early January which the British rights defender Outrage! claims involved an arrest on trumped up charges of pornography contained in the safe-sex HIV educational materials that were being distributed by CEDEP.
   
“The police spokesperson for the southern region in Malawi told me that it is true that the police went to the office of CEDEP, but they didn’t arrest anybody apart from just impounding or confiscating some materials which were pornographic, but they didn’t arrest anybody,” he reports.
   
Rights groups contend the prosecution of the newlywed couple runs contrary to section 20 of the Malawi constitution, which outlaws discrimination, and contravenes equal treatment tenets of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which the Lilongwe government has endorsed.  However, reporter Mzungu says that the international criticism has succeeded in generating a backlash push for Malawi to enact even tougher penalties for those convicted of illicit homosexuality.
   
“On Friday, the members of parliament were meeting in Lilongwe where one of the members of parliament criticized the NGO’s -- most local and international NGO’s, which are pushing the members of parliament to amend the constitution section which talks against homosexuality.  It means that the members of parliament too are not happy with what these two gay people have done in Malawi,” he explains.
   
Although stiffer penalties could mean longer jail sentences, the Daily Times journalist concedes that a high incidence of homosexuality in Malawi prisons may ultimately deter the harsher fines.
   
The defendants are next due to appear in court on February 9.  That’s just ten days after the country’s president Bingu Wa Mutharika took over the leadership of the continent-wide African Union.  Watipaso Mzungu says that until now, Mr. Mutharika has been careful to avoid speaking out on the case.
   
“As of now, the president has said nothing.  But the minister of information and civic education, Honorable Leckford Mwanza Thotho, has always told the media that government will not interfere and will not allow to be pushed around by foreign NGO’s to pass the law to allow homosexuality in Malawi.  That’s the government stand,” he insisted.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs