News

Malawian Married Gay Couple Plead Not Guilty to Indecency Charges

Multimedia

Audio

Human rights groups in Malawi have leapt to the defense of two gay men who were arrested after marrying in the country's first public same-sex ceremony. The men were charged in court Wednesday.

The two men, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, pleaded not guilty before a court in Blantyre to charges of indecency. The court denied bail but said it would examine the request next week.

The charges carry penalties of up to 14 years in prison. Prosecutors said they might bring additional charges.

The two men were arrested Sunday after performing a traditional wedding ceremony before hundreds of curious onlookers.

The Center for the Development of People, which fights for the rights of gays, prostitutes and prisoners, said it would support the men's defense. It said the laws used to arrest them are invalid because they run counter to the Bill of Rights in Malawi's constitution.

But the Malawi Law Society urged authorities to prosecute calling the wedding illegal and against the order of nature.

The head of the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Undule Mwakasungura, agreed that the men had violated Malawian law. But he said society could not continue to pretend that gays do not exist.

"The challenge is that gays and homosexuals are part and parcel of us as Malawians, as Africans," said Mwakasungura. "We cannot continue discriminating against them."

Pearson Mtata is a sociology professor at the University of Malawi who has researched homosexuality in Malawi. He told national radio that African gays face a dilemma because traditional values are still strong.

"Most of them [gays] are afraid to come out, not because they are ashamed of their behavior but because they are afraid of society," said Mtata.

Homosexuality is considered taboo in most traditional African societies and is illegal in most African countries.

Senegal recently arrested 25 men at a party and charged them with committing indecent acts. Uganda is soon to debate a law proposing the death penalty for some gays.

South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage and its constitution guarantees the rights of gays and lesbians. But traditional and religious members of parliament have proposed amendments outlawing same-sex marriages.

Mwakasungura believes one of the reasons for the public wedding ceremony was to challenge these laws and customs.

"This has given us a wake-up call but also a new chapter in terms of how we deepen the discussion or the debate on the gay citizens in Malawi," he said.

He notes that the country's law commission is examining outdated laws and could look at same-sex marriages.

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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs