News / Africa

Malawian Gay Couple Pardon Draws Praise, Concern

Multimedia

Audio

Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s weekend pardon of a homosexual couple recently convicted for holding a public betrothal ceremony has drawn praise from U.S. President Barack Obama, and from Britain and a Malawian gay rights group.  U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who was visiting Malawi at the time of the reprieve, called Sunday’s release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga from prison a courageous decision.

Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika
Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika

Journalist Watipaso Mzungu of the Malawi Daily Times newspaper said Malawians’ reactions have been mixed.  And, he said President Mutharika’s decision continues to raise a lingering question in a country that imposes stiff bans on homosexual behavior.

“Although they are not against the presidential pardon because he has just exercised his presidential powers, he (President Mutharika) has to answer a few lingering questions.  If he is not bound to the international pressure, why is he only pardoning these two, because there are other gay people who were arrested here in Malawi.  Why is he only releasing these two men?” asked Mzungu.

Two weeks ago, a Malawian judge convicted Monjeza and Chimbalanga of unnatural acts and sentenced them to 14 years in prison.  The sentence has drawn criticism from governments and human rights groups.  It has also sparked debate about activities by other African governments that are attempting to toughen penalties against homosexuality, which is illegal in 38 of Africa’s 53 states.

The Blantyre-based journalist noted that traditional religious group opposition to the legalization of homosexual unions remains very strong in Malawi, a predominantly (80%) Christian country.  He said there are signs that President Mutharika, while signaling that he is not overturning state law, is clearly acceding to demands of the international community.

“The president has pardoned these two guys, mainly due to pressure from  the international community.  The opposition, too, cannot risk the wrath of their voters, especially considering that the donor community is providing Malawi with funds for the purchasing of subsidized fertilizer.  Therefore, the opposition will put this behind them and concentrate on other matters of national interest,” said Mzungu.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza are taken into custody after celebrating their engagement, December 2009 (photo by Lameck Masina)
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza are taken into custody after celebrating their engagement, December 2009 (photo by Lameck Masina)

Despite the international attention, he said Mr. Mutharika’s own political fate is not being threatened and that his critics will try to reach a common understanding for the benefit of the country’s development needs until the next election cycle in 2014.

“I don’t think the political future of Mutharika is in jeopardy.  The president is serving his last term.  It is the next presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party that may suffer the wrath of the people.  But, I doubt if people can connect it to politics,” he said.

After speaking with Undule Mwakasungura, the director of Malawi’s Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Watipazo Mzungu, said he is not sure about legal and living conditions for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.  However, the Daily Times journalist said the country’s Minister of Gender and Child Welfare has told state media in Malawi that, “if the two guys go home and begin staying together, they are going to be rearrested.”

Mzungu said it is his clear understanding that President Mutharika is not trying to overturn the law, but is simply trying to find a way out of Malawi’s current clash with international human rights advocates, while signaling that violators of the current laws still face punishment.

“The president did emphasize that he did it (the pardon) on humanitarian grounds.  Therefore, it is an expectation that the two guys will not get married again unless they want to face another jail term,” he noted.

With charges dropped against them, Monjeza and Chimbalanga still have the option of leaving Malawi.  But, Mzungu notes that the Malawi government cannot be expected to advise them about whether or not they should leave the country.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid