January 5, 2010 – PinkNews
Malawi gay marriage trial expected next week
by Jessica Geen
The trial of two gay men arrested for holding a wedding party in Malawi is expected to begin on January 15th. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza are being held in custody in Chichiri Prison and were denied bail by a judge yesterday in the city of Blantyre. Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said the couple were at risk from mob violence if they were released, although this claim was rejected by their lawyers. He said they would be bailed by January 10th if prosecutors had finished investigating them.
The pair had a traditional engagement ceremony in the south African country on Saturday December 26th and were arrested two days later. Malawi punishes homosexuality with up to 14 years in prison. According to gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, who is in contact with campaigners in the country, the men will deny the three charges of unnatural practices between males and gross indecency. He said they would challenge the prosecution on the grounds that it is illegal under the equal rights and non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution.
In a news release, Tatchell said the couple had been jeered in court and disowned by their families. He said they were suffering "appalling" conditions in prison and are being threatened with forced physical examinations to determine whether they have had sex. But he added that they had been given food and money by supporters and a legal term had been assembled. Their case is being helped by the Malawian human rights group, the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP).
The centre’s executive director, Gift Trapence, told PinkNews.co.uk the men’s lawyers are fighting for the trial to be held in a higher court where more judges are sitting. He said: "Because of the penal code in Malawi, gays are seen as unnatural. They are not visible. This is the first case. There is a lot of attention in Malawi and lots of newspaper coverage. Gays are afraid of the law, they are not open, they are not visible. The problem is the violence is there but it is not reported. There are lots of blackmail issues. They think they will be prosecuted.
Trapence added that arrests such as this would hamper HIV prevention work. An administrator for CEDEP was arrested yesterday on charges that the centre’s safer sex HIV education materials are pornographic.
Tatchell described the charges as "trumped up" and said the arrest was "almost certainly in retaliation" for CEDEP’s public support of Chimbalanga and Monjeza. The group called today for a nationwide referendum on homosexuality, saying that consensus was needed. UK-based gay rights group OutRage! is collecting donations to be sent to the couple’s legal team in Malawi.
To send a donation, post a cheque payable to OutRage! to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT. Enclose a note giving your name and address and stating that your donation is for the Malawi Defence Campaign. OutRage! will pass all money donated to the couple’s defence team in Malawi.
January 6, 2010 – PinkNews
Amnesty International joins calls for release of gay Malawi couple
by Jessica Geen
Human rights organisation Amnesty International has joined the calls for a gay couple in Malawi to be released from prison. The group said that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were arrested on December 28th, were "prisoners of conscience" and called for their immediate and unconditional release. The couple were arrested after holding an engagement ceremony in Blantyre. Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and punishable by 14 years in prison.
Amnesty also said that attempts by the Malawian authorities to subject them to forcible medical examinations to establish if they had had sex contravened prohibitions on torture. The pair were to be examined on Monday but authorities were unable to find an expert to do so. Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: “Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have committed no criminal offence and should be immediately and unconditionally released.
“The Malawian authorities’ attempt to subject them to forcible anal examinations is appalling. Such practices, and the criminalisation of homosexuality in Malawi should be ended without delay.”
Monjeza and Chimbalanga are being held in custody at Chichiri prison, apparently to protect them from mob attacks. Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said they would be bailed by January 10th if prosecutors had finished investigating them. They are expected to go on trial on January 15th. Yesterday, the executive director of a Malawian human rights group told PinkNews.co.uk about the dangers for gays in the country.
Gift Trapence, of the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), said: "Because of the penal code in Malawi, gays are seen as unnatural. They are not visible. This is the first case. There is a lot of attention in Malawi and lots of newspaper coverage. Gays are afraid of the law, they are not open, they are not visible. The problem is the violence is there but it is not reported. There are lots of blackmail issues. They think they will be prosecuted."
Trapence is reportedly being sought by police for "pornographic" materials used by the centre to educate gay men about HIV. An administrator for CEDEP, Bunker Kamba, was arrested this week on the same charge. Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described the charges as "trumped up" and said the arrest was "almost certainly in retaliation" for the group’s public support of Chimbalanga and Monjeza.
07 January 2010 – Voice of America
Malawi Intensifies Prosecution of Gay Minorities and Their Defenders
by Howard Lesser – Washington
Three Malawi human rights activists are free on bail after being arrested for helping to defend a gay male couple that held a same-sex engagement ceremony in Malawi on December 26. The couple, 26-year-old Steven Monjeza and 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga, remain jailed, pending their trial on January 15, according to human rights defender Peter Tatchell of the London-based rights group Outrage! He contends that Malawians, like several other African populations, have yet to confront years of colonial-era revulsion with homosexuality, and they need to enact legislation that overturns punishment for same-sex acts.
“We find this very disturbing that Malawi, which has made a transition to democracy over the last two decades, now seems to be slipping backwards into the bad old ways during the era of the Hastings Banda dictatorship,” he noted. In addition to charging the three arrested activists with the campaign to defend the homosexual couple, Malawi prosecutors are leveling pornography charges against one of the rights activists for possessing pamphlets relating to safe sex and HIV educational materials. Tatchell says subject matter is untainted and is perfectly legal.
“It’s the kind of material that you’d find in any country in the world, and there’s no question at all that this material is not pornographic. It is solely concerned with educating people and saving lives. So these pornography charges are absolutely ridiculous, and we hope they’ll be thrown out by the courts,” he said.
Most gay and human rights proponents have gone into hiding in Malawi, given what Tatchell calls the recently whipped up homophobia, because they fear they will be arrested. Fortunately, attorneys in the country have shed the shame and national stigma of defending Malawi minorities, who include sex workers, migrants, prisoners, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. These lawyers have successfully been recruited by the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) as advocates for jailed suspects. Tatchell is confident the advocates will prevail because of the country’s constitutional guarantees.
“The attacks on the lesbian and gay community in Malawi go completely against Malawi’s own constitution, which guarantees equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens. It also violates the African Charter on human and people’s rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold. So in terms of law, we’re very confident that this witch hunt will have to end,” he observed.
Human rights groups point out that Malawi’s same-sex controversy coincides with several similar homophobic episodes fervently pursued by other intrusive African governments. In contrast, Tatchell praises South Africa for deliberately legislating constitutional guarantees for homosexual minorities in the post-apartheid country. But he cites several trouble spots where African rights advocates will have to focus their efforts.
“It seems to me that as lesbian and gay Africans become more visible and begin to assert their right to be treated equally, the governments of many African countries are responding, not with dialogue, not with informed, reasoned debate about the issue, but by ham-fisted repression. So I’ve seen all those arrests that took place in Cameroon. We’ve seen the attacks on gay clergy in Nigeria. And now, of course, we see the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, which threatens to introduce the death penalty for repeat homosexual offenders. It’s a very, very shocking, sad development,” he cautioned.
The U.K.-based rights spokesman says that much of the impetus driving African countries to pursue punishment for homosexuals stems from fundamentalist clergy in the United States and other western countries, who are losing the battle to defeat gay rights in their own societies and in reaction try to export their crusade to what he calls “more vulnerable client countries” so that by funding anti-gay activities and religious institutions, they can advance their agendas overseas.
11 January 2010 – The Independent
The love that still dare not speak its name
by Miranda Bryant
In the week that two Malawians go on trial for violating anti-gay laws, Daniel Howden finds that their experience is all too common in a continent of legalised homophobia
A whispering campaign is under way in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, accusing Paul Semugoma, a doctor, of being a predatory homosexual, actively recruiting younger men into his "vice" with the help of foreign conspirators. His home and business addresses have been published online and he has received a string of death threats. "They are saying that I’m the ‘gay tycoon’, spreading the infectious disease of homosexuality in Uganda," he says with a bitter laugh. "It’s such nonsense."
In reality, he is a respected doctor who has volunteered his time to help with HIV and safe sex education programmes and writes a weekly medical advice column for a popular newspaper. But in the last month he has been publicly outed as a homosexual four times with government officials offering money to anyone willing to inform on his private life.
The doctor is living a lonely preview of the nightmare that life is about to become for the gay community in Uganda if new legislation is passed this month making homosexuality punishable with life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Uganda’s minister for ethics and integrity has said it will be every citizen’s duty under the new laws to denounce friends, family or acquaintances they suspect of being gay.
Church meetings this week in the capital and elsewhere in Uganda have been whipping up support for a public demonstration in favour of the anti-homosexuality bill on 19 January ahead of its second reading in parliament. Before that goes ahead, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga will have had to face a trial in Malawi on charges of consenting adult homosexuality.
The pair are being held without bail in Chichiri prison after they held a symbolic marriage ceremony which was reported in the local press. The same-sex couple were arrested and three Malawian human rights activists who spoke up in their defence have been jailed also. Authorities have since tried to force the young couple who had been living together for five months to undergo anal examinations to medically establish whether they had had sexual relations.
The apparent tide of anti-homosexuality may have peaked in Uganda and Malawi but the two countries are far from alone in Africa.
Read Article HERE
January 13, 2010 – PinkNews
Scottish MPs condemn arrest of gay Malawian men
by Jessica Geen
More than 20 members of the Scottish parliament condemned the arrest of two gay men in Malawi who held a wedding ceremony. The motion was signed by members of all main parties and called for parliament to condemn the "illegal and homophobic arrests" of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. The couple are currently on trial and may face up to 14 years in prison if convicted.
Dundee West MSP Joe FitzPatrick, who introduced the motion, said that although Scotland does not have an official foreign policy role, he felt that parliament should speak up. He said: "Malawi is one of several African countries adopting increasingly homophobic attitudes, with Uganda having recently introducing anti-homosexual legislation including the death penalty and other repressive practices being introduced in Gambia. Apart from the human rights violations, and the discriminatory nature of the contraventions, it is likely that these retrograde and illegal moves will considerably set back efforts to combat the massive problem of HIV AIDS in the African sub-continent."
The motion also calls for an end to police harassment of HIV educators and human rights defenders in the country. Lawyers acting for Monjeza and Chimbalanga have asked for a review of the country’s homosexuality ban. The couple were arrested on December 28th in Blantyre after holding a public ceremony. They are currently in custody in Chichiri prison.
Their legal team has asked for the case to be held before the Constitutional Court, but the presiding judge in Blantyre has said he will continue with the trial until the higher court accepts the case. Judge Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa agreed that a constitutional review could take place.
January 17, 2010 – Times On Line
West turns Africa into gay battlefield – Western evangelists and gay rights groups are stoking Africa’s bitter rows over homosexuality, writes RW Johnson in Cape Town
by RW Johnson in Cape Town
The trial of a young male couple charged with unnatural practices and gross indecency after announcing their engagement in Malawi was adjourned last week when one of the accused collapsed in court while enduring jeers from the public gallery. Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, was made to return with a mop to clean up his own vomit, even though he has malaria. He and his boyfriend, Steven Monjeza, 26, have been held in Chichiri prison, Blantyre, for more than a week — in order, the judge says, to protect them from mob violence.
Chichiri has a reputation for overcrowding, disease and homosexual rape. The couple say they have been badly beaten and Peter Tatchell, the British gay activist, describes their conditions as appalling. Such scenes will only increase the pressure from western human rights activists and donor countries on Malawi’s government to moderate its draconian anti-gay laws, for which the couple have provided a test case. They face up to 14 years in jail.
Following similar donor pressure, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda distanced himself from an anti-homosexuality bill before parliament in Kampala last week. Museveni appealed to MPs to “go slow” on the private member’s bill, which stipulates the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, including homosexual acts by HIV-positive men.
Museveni said he had come under pressure from Gordon Brown, Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in a 45-minute phone call. He was also struck by the fact that a US protest rally had drawn 300,000 people, saying he would have great difficulty attracting such a crowd.
The two cases illustrate the way Africa is becoming a battleground over differing attitudes to homosexuality in the West. Both sides accuse the other of being driven by external influences: gay rights campaigners say conservative American evangelists are encouraging homophobia, while the anti-gay side insists that homosexuality is only surfacing openly in Africa because of western encouragement. Some argue that the African rows over homosexuality are really a proxy skirmish in an American cultural dispute, with both evangelicals and gay rights groups in the US pouring in money and support.
In Uganda, attention has focused on a visit by three US evangelicals, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer, just before the anti-homosexuality bill was introduced. They held seminars for MPs and officials where homosexuality was described as a disease that could be healed, although they have subsequently disclaimed any responsibility for the bill. Lively, the president of Defend the Family International, told Ugandans that legalising homosexuality would mean legalising “the molestation of children and having sex with animals”.
Schmierer works with “homosexual recovery groups”, while Brundidge, who claims once to have been gay himself, works with the International Healing Foundation as a “sexual reorientation coach”. He also leads Christian groups to mortuaries where they attempt to raise the dead. Gay activists have placed on the web a video of Lively telling a Ugandan audience that he “knows more than almost anyone else in the world” about homosexuality. He says that the genocide in Rwanda was carried out by gays, that Aids is a just punishment for homosexuality and that foreigners are trying to promote homosexuality in Uganda.
Museveni has warned Ugandan youth that homosexuality is against God’s will and that “European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa”. His minister for ethics, Nsaba Buturo, says homosexuality is a “moral perversion that must not be allowed to spread”. Ugandas churches are themselves strongly homophobic — Archbishop Henry Orombi and Pastor Martin Sempe have been leading a campaign in support of the bill.
The Church of Uganda is vehemently against gay clergymen and when retired bishop Christopher Senyonjo preached tolerance towards homosexuals in 2005, Orombi stripped him of his pension. A similar pattern is found in Malawi. George Thindwa, director of the Association of Secular Humanism, who is attempting to help the arrested gay couple, said “the churches are definitely spearheading the anti-gay campaign here”. He said Malawi was often visited by foreign evangelists, though he thought the local clergy needed little encouragement in their homophobia.
Pastor Mario Manyozo, of Malawi’s Word of Life Tabernacle Church, says “homosexuality is against God’s creation and is an evil act since gays are possessed with demons”. Similar sentiments are echoed by many churchmen, based on the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Pastor Joseph Mbeme, of Malawi’s Ambassadors for Christ Church, says the church must pray for homosexuality to be stamped out. Thindwa points out that 83% of Malawians are Christians and another 13% are Muslims — and that Islamic law is even more hostile to gays. In Muslim northern Nigeria the penalty for homosexuality is stoning to death.
The claim that western influence is encouraging homosexuality is common. Some wealthy westerners are accused of sex tourism and paedophilia. Peter Atekyereza, a sociology professor at Makerere University in Uganda, said “external influence is definitely behind the spread of homosexuality”. He said international organisations had been giving “scholarships and hand-outs in an attempt to recruit young people to homosexuality”.
Many Africans echo President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who calls gays “sexual perverts — lower than dogs or pigs”, and who claims that homosexuality is “unAfrican” — “leave whites to do that,” he has said. There have even been assertions that homosexuality did not exist in Africa until the white man imported it. Last year nine Senegalese gay activists were jailed for eight years after coming out. This followed an international Aids conference attended by 50 foreign activists who stressed the need for gays to be dealt with openly.
Uganda expelled the local director of UNAIDS, the United Nations programme on HIV and Aids, for organising a meeting with Ugandan gay activists. The US and Sweden, both big donors, have threatened to cut off aid if the anti-homosexuality bill is not moderated. An anguished editorial in The Uganda Record accused the West of trying to bully Africans into homosexuality. “To Africans this is an almost existential matter. Their very future as societies is at stake.”
Additional reporting: Rosie Kinchen
January 18, 2010 – The Washington Post
Malawi government defends gay couple’s prosecution
by Rapahel Tenthani – The Associated Press
Blantyre, Malawi – Malawi’s government said Monday that it is unmoved by international criticism of the trial of a gay couple charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency, felonies for which they could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
In a statement Monday, Malawi’s Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto made no apology for the laws that criminalize homosexual acts. He said Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were "clearly breaking the laws of Malawi."
"As government we cannot interfere in the court process," Thoto said. "We depend on our Western friends, yes, but we are a sovereign country." Forty percent of Malawi’s budget is funded by international donors. Monjeza, 26, and Chimbalanga, 20, have been jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, the day they celebrated their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious onlookers in this conservative southern African country. Hearings in the trial also have attracted crowds.
A verdict is expected next month.
Amnesty International has called for the couple’s immediate release. More than 20 members of the Scottish parliament have condemned the arrest, calling on their government to review its development aid package for Malawi. OutRage! – a gay rights group – has called on Britain to intercede on behalf of the gay couple. Mauya Msuku, the couple’s lawyer, said the laws under which Monjeza and Chimbalanga were charged were archaic and unconstitutional.
"The penal code criminalizes homosexuality or same-sex marriages but under the Bill of Rights in the new Constitution it is clearly stated that no one should be discriminated against on the basis of – among other things – sexual orientation," he said.
Msuku has asked Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo for a constitutional review. Munlo has yet to set the date for a Constitutional Court hearing. Recently, a group of Malawi human rights activists formed the Center for the Development of People to fight for the rights of homosexuals and other minorities.
In Africa, only South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage, and in South Africa the gap between the liberal constitution and societal attitudes can be wide. Uganda will soon debate a proposed law that would impose the death penalty on some gays, though Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes the bill is too harsh and a Cabinet minister has called – so far unsuccessfully – for the bill to be scrapped.
January 19, 2010 – PinkNews
Malawi defends prosecution of gay couple
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Malawi’s government has defended the prosecution of a gay couple who had a wedding ceremony. Information minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto said Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were "clearly breaking the laws of Malawi." He said: "Despite Malawi depending on international aid, the country is a sovereign country with its own laws and must not be influenced by the West in the running of its affairs of state."
Monjeze and Chimbalanga were arrested on December 28th after holding a wedding ceremony in Blantyre. They face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been remanded in custody after failing to secure bail.
Amnesty International has called for their release, saying the pair have committed no crime. The men’s lawyers are arguing that the prosecution is unconstitutional and have asked for a review of the country’s homosexuality laws. Their legal team has asked for the case to be held before the Constitutional Court, but the presiding judge in Blantyre has said he will continue with the trial until the higher court accepts the case.
The trial is expected to resume next week.
January 22, 2010 – Peter Tatchell
British MPs condemn Malawi gay arrests
EDM urges drop the charges, decriminalise same-sex relations
Twenty-nine British MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 564), which condemns Malawi’s arrest and current trial of two men, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who are accused of a homosexual relationship. They face up to 14 years in jail, and have already suffered abuse, humiliation and violence while being held on remand in Chichiri Prison, in the city of Blantyre. The EDM, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, also urges the dropping of all charges and the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Malawi.
A copy of the EDM follows below.
See background to the Malawi arrests and trial here
"The men’s prosecution and the ban on homosexuality violate the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the Constitution of Malawi and of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold ," said Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay human rights group OutRage! Mr Tatchell has been working with Malawian friends to support the men on trial and to oppose their prosecution. He helped organise the EDM in the British Parliament.
"The EDM will be communicated to the Malawian High Commissioner in London. It will hopefully add to pressure for the acquittal of Steven and Tiwonge and for the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality by the Government of Malawi," Mr Tatchell added.
"We hope this parliamentary motion will send a strong signal from the House of Commons to the Malawian government that the criminalisation of consenting same-sex relations is a violation of human rights. Malawi’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have a right to privacy, equality, respect and dignity, under the country’s constitution and under international humanitarian law.
"Malawi is a sovereign nation and we respect its independence. But we hope that its government will recognise that this trial and the criminalisation of homosexuality are contrary to the human rights principles that Malawi has embraced since its transition from dictatorship to democracy.
"We appeal to the kindness and generosity of the Malawian people and government: please show mercy to Steven and Tiwonge and do not persecute your fellow Malawian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
"OutRage! supports the many Malawian people who oppose homophobia and the prosecution of these two men. It is encouraging to hear people in Malawi say: live and let live.
"Tiwonge and Steven have harmed no one. They should not be on trial," concluded Mr Tatchell.
January 24, 2010 – Times Live
Qwelane: The invisible ambassador
by Sue Richardson, Johannesburg
The subject of tolerance, intolerance and "acceptable behaviour" has been in the news again. Mind you, has it ever left? Jon Qwelane is preparing for an ambassadorial role in Uganda, regardless of his views on homosexuality, made public in the column he wrote in 2008: "Call me names, but gay is not OK".
This is obviously a touchy subject, judging by the invective spouted in almost every newspaper and on numerous blogs. So far, he has neatly managed to avoid being served with the summons issued by the Human Rights Commission. No mean feat for an up-an-coming relatively visible public persona. The reason given for the failure to serve the summons was that he could not be traced. Pardon me for stating the obvious, but isn’t the government becoming a little careless? Losing one’s mind is personal and unfortunate, but losing a new ambassador – that’s a sign that new directions are needed.
There seems to be far too much attention paid to just what humans do with and to their genitals. Why do we care? Is a person less of a human being, mind, body and soul, because he or she has sex, or doesn’t, in a particular way? Why? Regardless of sexual orientation, bigotry and intolerance should not be tolerated. But then, this is South Africa, where some are more equal than others. Thanks George Orwell – you put it so well.
28 January 2010 – Link2Media
Over forty African civil society organizations, in a statement released today, expressed their deep concern at the imprisonment and prosecution of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga under provisions of Malawi’s penal code criminalizing private sexual behavior. They called on the Malawian government to drop all charges against both individuals and repeal the discriminatory criminal law.
On 28 December, police officers arrested Monjeza and Chimbalanga at their home, charging them under sections 153 and 156 of the Malawian penal code for “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices between males.” This happened two days after Monjeza and Chimbalanga conducted a traditional engagement ceremony, an event that was widely reported in the Malawian press. Chimbalanga was forced to undergo a medical examination to determine whether they had engaged in sexual intercourse, and both were subjected to a psychiatric evaluation. They have been denied bail and remain in custody.
The group of endorsers, which includes organizations from over a dozen African countries, warned that such criminal prosecution would greatly undermine efforts to respond effectively to the HIV pandemic, stating: “The charges against Monjeza and Chimbalanga have caused a widespread fear among persons engaged in same sex relations—a group the Malawian government has recognized is vulnerable to discrimination and critical to its efforts to effectively respond to the HIV epidemic.”
According to media reports Dr. Mary Shawa, the Principal Secretary for Nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the Malawian President’s Office recently acknowledged the need to “incorporate a human rights approach in the delivery of HIV and AIDS services to…men who have sexual intercourse with men.” She further asked men who have sex with men [MSM] to come out in the open in order to assist in HIV prevention efforts.
The statement warns that “This cannot be done given recent statements by governmental officials denouncing MSM, which has served to further drive this already vulnerable community further underground.”
Discrimination against men who have sex with men has increasingly raised public health concerns in the African region, where HIV rates among this group are up to ten times that of the general population in large part because they are systematically marginalised in HIV prevention and treatment interventions due to politically driven hostility. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has previously warned that such discrimination is unethical and “makes no sense from a health perspective”.
The statement which was also supported by almost twenty additional individuals and international civil society organizations further highlighted how sections 153 and 156 of the penal code violated fundamental rights guaranteed under the Malawi Constitution, including the rights to be free from discrimination and human dignity.
Undule D.K. Mwakasungula, the Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in Malawi, stressed that “HIV and human rights cannot be separated. We need our governments to support progressive approaches to health that are not based on prejudiced notions of morality, but on evidence-based responses to the reality in our region.”
For further information please contact:
Undule D.K. Mwakasungula, + 265 999 664 176, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Malawi
Michaela Clayton, +264 81 127 2367, AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA), Namibia
Priti Patel, +27 76 808 0505, Southern Africa Litigation Centre
(SALC), South Africa
Communications Co-ordinator AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA)
3rd Floor, Mercantile Building
Tel.: +27 (21) 422 5463
February 3, 2010 – PinkNews
Malawi man arrested for putting up gay rights posters
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A Malawi man has been arrested for putting up gay rights posters. Peter Sawali, 21, was arrested last weekend when he was found putting the posters up on a main road in Blantyre. The posters, said to be expensively printed, read "gay rights are human rights". Mr Sawali will be charged with "conduct likely to cause breach of peace,", a police spokeswoman told AFP. If convicted, he may be fined or jailed for up to three months.
Police are investigating how Mr Sawali obtained the posters. They believe he and other gay rights activists in Malawi may be sponsored by international organisations. The African country has laws prohibiting homosexuality and two men arrested on gross indecency charges in December are still in custody.
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested on December 28th for holding a wedding ceremony. They have twice been denied bail and face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. They are pleading not guilty to the charges. Their case is set to resume this week and a simultaneous case has been filed by their lawyers in the constitutional court. The men’s lawyers are arguing that the prosecution is unconstitutional and have asked for a review of the country’s homosexuality laws.
February 10, 2010 – PinkNews
Malawi minister says gays must ‘come out in the open’
by Jessica Geen
A government minister in Malawi has said that gays must be more open – despite the fact they can be imprisoned for 14 years. Speaking after a police arrested 21-year-old Peter Sawali for putting up gay rights posters in Blantyre, deputy information minister Kingsley Namakhwa urged other gay people to come out. He told Afrique en Ligne: “As far as the Malawi government is concerned we only have two gays in Malawi – Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.
“If there are others, let them come out in the open.” But he reiterated that any who did come would be arrested, in line with Malawi’s laws. Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have become the faces of gay equality in the African country after they were arrested for holding a traditional wedding ceremony in December.
They have twice been denied bail and are pleading not guilty to charges of gross indecency. Their case is expected to resume soon and their lawyers are calling for a review of Malawi’s homosexuality laws, saying they violate the country’s constitution. Sawali avoided jail for putting up the posters and is serving 60 days of community service.
Police are investigating how he obtained the posters. They believe he and other gay rights activists in Malawi may be sponsored by international organisations.
February 2010 – PlosOne
HIV Prevalence, Risks for HIV Infection, and Human Rights among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) in Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana
In the generalized epidemics of HIV in southern Sub-Saharan Africa, men who have sex with men have been largely excluded from HIV surveillance and research. Epidemiologic data for MSM in southern Africa are among the sparsest globally, and HIV risk among these men has yet to be characterized in the majority of countries.
Read Report HERE
12 February 2010 – Africa News
Malawi: Homosexual jailed 10 yrs
Madalitso Kateta, AfricaNews reporter in Blantyre, Malawi
A Malawian Davis Mpanda, 29, has been convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for having sex with a 15-year-old boy. Mpanda was arrested on January 25 at a trading centre near the commercial capital Blantyre, for having “carnal knowledge with a person against the order of nature,” reported The Nation newspaper of Malawi.
Lunzu Magistrate, Diana Kamwangala, said that same-sex is “a serious offence” in the country which criminalizes homosexuality. The Magistrate also noted that “such offences are on the rise in Malawi.” “The offences are against Malawi’s moral values. The convict is an abuser because what he did to the juvenile is sexual corruption,” Magistrate Kamwangala said in the ruling.
“Because of the psychological trauma which the boy will live with for the rest of his life, this court therefore sentences the convict to 10 years imprisonment with hard labour,” she said. Deputy government spokesman, Kingsley Namakwa has said that gays must be more open – despite the fact they can be imprisoned for 14 years. Speaking after a police arrested 21-year-old Peter Sawali for putting up gay posters in Blantyre, Namakhwa who is deputy information minister urged other gay people to come out.
“As far as the Malawi government is concerned we only have two gays in Malawi – Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. If there are others, let them come out in the open.” However, he said those who would come out would be arrested in line with the southern African country’s laws. Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have become the faces of gay equality in the African country after they were arrested for holding a traditional wedding ceremony last December.
They have twice been denied bail and are pleading not guilty to charges of gross indecency.
16 February 2010 – The Guardian
Malawi launches operation against high-profile gay and lesbian people
Fears of backlash across Africa as US evangelists accused of spreading religious zeal behind homophobic campaigns
by David Smith and agencies guardian.co.uk
Police in Malawi have launched an operation to hunt down and arrest high-profile gays and lesbians in the southern African state. Fears of an anti-gay backlash across Africa are intensifying after the prosecution of the first gay couple to seek marriage in Malawi, and thousands of Ugandans demonstrated this week in support of a bill proposing the death penalty for some offences involving homosexual acts. Last week five men were arrested at an alleged gay wedding in Kenya.
Dave Chingwalu, a spokesman for police in Malawi, said a 60-year-old man was arrested yesterday and charged with sodomy. Chingwalu said he received a complaint from a young man that he had been asked to undress by the older man and was then sodomised. Police investigations had uncovered a network of high-profile people involved homosexual acts, investigations were under way "and we will arrest them all", Chingwalu said.
Malawi has been criticised by international groups for the prosecution of Steven Monjeza, 26, and 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga, jailed in December for holding a wedding ceremony. The men were charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency and could be imprisoned for up to 14 years if found guilty. A 21-year-old man was recently sentenced to two months’ community service for putting up pro-gay rights posters, and a senior minister expelled a woman from her town even after a court acquitted her on charges of having sex with two girls.
Campaigners in Malawi say homophobic legislation is driving gays and lesbians underground, making them hard to reach with information that could protect them from Aids."In Malawi it’s a complete witch-hunt that denies the people the right to self-determination," said Phumi Mtetwa, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, based in South Africa. "We are deeply concerned about this spate of homophobia across the continent."
Mtetwa said the recent series of incidents was no accident but rather the work of US evangelical Christian groups. "It’s very well calculated. It’s exploding at the moment but it’s been happening for a year and a half. We have proof of American evangelical churches driving the religious fundamentalism in Uganda."
The Ugandan parliament is considering a bill that would impose life imprisonment as the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex. If the accused person is HIV positive or a serial offender, or a "person of authority" over the other partner, or if the "victim" is under 18, a conviction will result in the death penalty.
Members of the public are obliged to report any homosexual activity to police within 24 hours or risk up to three years in jail. The legislation has earned international condemnation – Barack Obama described it as "odious" – but has received vocal backing within Uganda. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Jinja, about 40 miles east of the capital, Kampala, in the biggest demonstration against homosexuals since the bill was introduced.
Okware Romano, a protester, said: "I have a verse in the bible in Leviticus 20 verse 13. It says that homosexuals should be put to death … yes." Last week police in Kenya said they had arrested five men whom they believed were homosexual in Kikambala beach resort near Mombasa. District officer George Matandura said two of the men had been found with wedding rings, attempting to get married. "It is an offence, an unnatural offence, and also their behaviour is repugnant to the morality of the people," Matandura said.
The other three men were turned in to the police by members of the public. Two of them had reportedly been beaten. Gay sex is illegal in 36 countries in Africa. Only South Africa has legalised same sex marriage, and even there campaigners say the fight against bigotry is far from over.
February 17, 2010 – Box Turtle Bulletin
Gay Witch-Hunt Underway In Malawi
by Jim Burroway
Malawi authorities are on the hunt:
Malawi Police have uncovered a network of high-profile people who are involved homosexual acts including University of Malawi lectures and priests police spokesman said. Davie Chingwalu, police spokesman for the Southern Region is quoted by Associated Press that police investigation indicates that some University of Malawi lectures are involved in practices of homosexuality.
“Some are white expatriates, some are priests while others are university lecturers,” Chingwalu is quoted by AP. … Chingwalu said police are still investigating the matter and warned that “we will arrest them all.” A deputy government spokesman, Kingsley Namankhwa, urged gays to “come out in the open” so that they can be arrested. Police have already arrested Tony Chirwa, 60, on a complaint that he “sodomized” a 23-year-old man. Last December, 26-year-old Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested following a traditional engagement ceremony. They have since been charged with buggery or unnatural acts between males and gross indecency, which carries a sentence of fourteen years at hard labor.
Two weeks ago, police arrested Peter Sawali, 21, for posting gay-rights posters in the city of Blantyre, the country’s commercial and judicial capital. He was sentenced to two months’ community service.
19 February 2010 – VOA News
Malawians Debate Legalizing Gay Marriage
by Lameck Masina
Blantyre, Malawi – In late December, two gay men held an engagement ceremony – and were promptly arrested. The event prompted a public debate over the legalization of homosexuality. Sections 153 and 156 of the country’s penal code outlaw sexual intercourse between people of the same sex. But some human rights campaigners argue that the laws contravene the constitution and international conventions that guarantee equality and non-discrimination regardless of sexual orientation.
Section 20 of the Malawi Constitution says discrimination against persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination because of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status. Crispin Sibande, a human rights lawyer for the Malawi Human Rights Commission, says he thinks the phrase “other status” includes sexual orientation. He also describes the penal code as inconsistent with the Constitution, which deplores any form of discrimination.
Gay couple are taken into custody in Blantyre, Malawi
“We have to change the law," he says, "mainly [to] conform to our penal code. When we allow homosexuals to come out in the open, we promote their right to health. We will make sure these people are accessing health services in terms of going through HIV testing and accessing treatment [if they are HIV-positive]. They should be able to go the hospital and get treatment without being worried about whether the doctor will ask how [they] got this infection.”
Human rights law vs. tradition
But traditional leaders say allowing homosexuality would violate the country’s traditional values, which regard the practice as a taboo. But Sibande says as long as gay people live without violating other people’s rights, there is nothing wrong.
"I don’t think that is correct," he says. "I will give an example: in Malawi it was a taboo for a woman to put on trousers. It was a taboo for a woman to put on a miniskirt. But over the time we have debated these things and we have moved [away] from that. Now, homosexuals, in my understanding, are not demanding any extra rights. We are simply saying the same rights that everybody is enjoying; let those rights [be] enjoyed by them. Let them be accepted in…society.”
Malawi’s main religions are Islam and Christianity and in both religions same sex marriage is a sin. Some religious leaders, like Apostle Felix Zalimba, the leader of the All for Jesus church, say homosexuality is immoral and that two people of the same sex can’t have sex and be accepted in society. “It is the question of saying what the Bible," explains Zalimba. "The Bible is very explicit that homosexuality is not only a sin but also an abomination.”
Undule Mwakasungura is the executive director of the local NGO Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. “We strongly need to consider the human rights and freedom of gay people," says Mwakasungura, "so that they can enjoy the rights to equality before the law, and this should be done through amending our laws to accommodate groups such as gays. HIV-aids cannot be achieved without recognizing the groups such as the gay citizens.”
Ambokile Salimu, a legal expert, says "there are two alternatives to end this debate: referring the matter to the constitutional court or by holding a referendum – a broader approach to how the nation would address itself to the question of whether to legalize it or not, [where] people would vote on the issue.”
Several international rights groups have also added their voices to the debate. Amnesty International has accused the country of failing to respect international treaties it has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Government officials have responded by saying Malawi is a sovereign state with its own laws and values. They say they did not realize that signing such agreements would also mean protecting the rights of gay people.
Ambivalence over public disclosure
The existence of homosexuals in the country is not in dispute, though their exact numbers are not known. In 2009, an online newspaper, Nyasatimes, reported on the formation of an association called the Malawi Gay Rights Movement. But Malawi has long been hostile to gays. In 2005, the Anglican Church in Malawi rejected the appointment of a British vicar, Rev. Nicholas Henderson, as the bishop-elect of the Lake Malawi diocese. The church said it based its decision on his support for gay rights.
In this atmosphere, it is difficult to find anyone to publicly admit to being a homosexual in Malawi. They fear they will be ostracized at work and among family and friends. Many (gays) say they would rather have people assume without certainty that they are gay than confirm it themselves. Most Malawians say that even if the law is repealed it will take a very long time for gays to be accepted because social attitudes are so slow to change.
February 23,2010 – AFP
Malawi top court refuses to hear gay couple’s case
Blantyre(AFP) — Malawi’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday refused to hear the case of a gay couple arrested for "gross indecency" after holding the nation’s first public same-sex wedding ceremony. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were arrested in late December and have been tried in a magistrates court in this conservative southern African country where homosexuality is illegal.
Their lawyer Mauya Msuku in January appealed to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the law used against them violated their constitutional rights to privacy, belief and self-expression. Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo said the case was a simple criminal proceeding. "There are no elements in the case that relate to the interpretation or application of the constitution," Munlo said in a ruling obtained by AFP. He said the proceedings "deal with criminal offences under the penal code, namely the offence of buggery and indecent practices."
The decision leaves the couple waiting for the March 22 verdict in their criminal trial, with both men still behind bars. They pleaded not guilty to the charge at a magistrate’s court. If convicted, they could face up to 14 years in prison.
March 13, 2010 – IPS
Country Not Safe for Homosexuals
by Claire Ngozo
Lilongwe,(IPS) – Malawi is quickly becoming unsafe for homosexuals as the country’s police service recently launched a campaign to hunt down and arrest prominent people who are suspected of being gay. The police service claim to be investigating issues related to ‘homosexual tendencies’ as homosexuality is against the law in Malawi. The hunt follows the traditional engagement ceremony of two men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, which took place in the country’s commercial capital, Blantyre, on Boxing Day. The couple was arrested two days after their union and have since been in custody as they await trial.
"We launched investigations because we have information that there are prominent people behind Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza," said Dave Chingwalu, the police spokesman for Malawi’s southern region. Top members of society including members of parliament, priests and academics are suspects in the investigation, according to Chingwalu. The police have not divulged the names of the people that are being targeted in the investigation.
The southern African country has in recent months become more homophobic. On Feb. 9, Davis Mpanda, 29, was given a 10-year prison sentence after being found guilty of buggery. Sections 153 and 156 of the Penal Code criminalise homosexuality and anyone convicted under these sections may be jailed for a minimum of five years and a maximum of 14 years.
Magistrate Diana Mangwana of South Lunzu Magistrate’s Court, in Blantyre convicted Mpanda together with his partner, a 15-year-old boy. (The age of consent and for marriage in Malawi is 15 years.) The boy told the magistrate that he consented to having sex with Mpanda five times. The court set the boy free, saying his punishment would be "the psychological trauma he will live with for the rest of his life".
"These offences are against Malawi’s moral values. The convict is an abuser because what he did to the juvenile is sexual corruption. He took advantage of the boy to please his own unnatural desires," Mangwana stated in her court ruling. Another person who has fallen victim to Malawi’s anti-gay stand is Peter Sawali, 21. On Feb. 8, he was convicted and sentenced to two weeks community service by the Blantyre magistrates’ court for mounting posters promoting gay rights along the commercial capital’s main road, the Masauko Chipembere Highway.
"Sawali was found guilty of conduct likely to cause breach of peace," said Beatrice Mwachande, the police spokesperson for Blantyre. Sixty-year-old Tony Chirwa was arrested on Feb. 19 after being accused of sodomising a 23-year-old man. Chirwa is in police custody. A top government official has also expressed her disdain against homosexuality. Minister of Gender, Child and Community Development Patricia Kaliati, on Jan. 19 did not take kindly to a court decision which saw a suspected lesbian being set free by a magistrate court in Malawi’s tea-growing district of Mulanje.
Nellie Somanje of Mulanje, where Kaliati is a member of parliament, was found not guilty by the court after being accused of "having carnal knowledge of two girls" aged 15 and 18, who she employed. Mulanje Second Grade Magistrate, Lameck Mkwapatira, indicated in his judgement that he acquitted Somanje because there was a lack of evidence against her and that the girls had told the court that they had consented to the sexual relationship. However, Kaliati accused the magistrate of promoting homosexuality and "setting a bad precedence" for the country. The minister told the local media that she has banished Somanje from the area and has since sent her to her "district of origin", Mangochi, on Lake Malawi’s shores.
Rights organisations are concerned about the apparent targeting of homosexuals. The hunt for gay people will only prompt this "vulnerable group" to go underground, according to Gift Trapense, director of human rights organisation the Centre for the Development of People. Trapense told IPS that the HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with other men is "very high" at 21.4 percent. The prevalence rate for the country is 12 percent. "It is already an issue of concern that they are under great threat from HIV. The hunt that the police have set up is a total violation of human rights as they are denying gay people the right to live freely," said Trapense. "They’re going too far by hunting gay people down."
Meanwhile, the country awaits the fate of the now-prominent couple, Monjeza and Chimbalanga. Blantyre chief resident magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa has set Mar. 22 as the day he will deliver his ruling on the matter. The case has attracted a lot of interest both within Malawi and internationally. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and some British members of parliament have since condemned the treatment of gay people in Malawi. After their arrest, the couple was subjected to a mental examination and other medical tests.
The government of Norway, one of Malawi’s donor countries, warned the government of Malawi to respect gay rights or risk tainting its human rights record. "We have noted that Malawi has made a lot of progress in terms of human rights but there is specific concern on the continued segregation of the gay community," Norwegian Minister of International Development Erik Solheim told a news conference. Solheim was on a short visit to Malawi.
"Globally, the gay issue is not only about human rights but also the protection of minorities like homosexuals. The state should never harm the basic rights of individuals," said Solheim. The country’s famous gay couple have since had their efforts to challenge the trial in the magistrates’ court thwarted. Lawyers representing Chimbalanga and Monjeza had asked the constitutional court to take a position on the matter. They were arguing that the Penal Code that was used to arrest the pair violates their constitutional rights to privacy, dignity, belief, conscience and self expression. But the country’s chief justice, Lovemore Munlo, threw out the application on the basis of legal technicalities. Munlo stated in his ruling that the application by the couple’s lawyers lacked clarity on the proceedings that the constitutional court was expected to certify on.
March 16, 2010 – Reuters
Malawi budget donors warns of human rights abuses
Lilongwe (Reuters) – Malawi’s major donors on Tuesday condemned the abuse of human rights in the southern African nation, particularly a crackdown on gay rights, and warned that abuses could affect budget suppport. The Common Approach for Budgetary Support (Cabs), a grouping of major donor nations and international bodies that supports the poor southern African country, said in a report it was concerned by rights abuses, but did not suggest any sanction.
"When we talk about human rights, we do not only talk about the majority but also minority groups like the on-going issue of homosexuals which needs to be looked into thoroughly," Cabs Chairman Frank Kufwakwandi said in a statement. A Malawi magistrate will rule next week on public indecency charges laid against a gay couple, who have been in detention since December last year after publicly getting engaged in a traditional ceremony.
Homosexuality is a criminal offence in Malawi and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. "Government should endeavour to take heed of human rights issues which some of our constituents have raised … respect for human rights is one of the fundamental principles of Malawi’s budget support cooperation from the Cabs group of development partners," Kufwakwandi, who is also AfDB country representative, said.
Cabs is made up of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Norway, Britain, Germany, the World Bank, the IMF and the European Commission. The group is meeting in Malawi to assess the performance of both Malawi and development partners. Malawi is aid dependent with the Cabs group contributing over 40 percent of its budget. In the current financial year, it is contributing about $500 million.
The statement comes a week after Norway’s minister of environment and international development cautioned the government on the need to respect gay rights. In January, Scottish and British MPs petitioned President Bingu wa Mutharika‘s administration to drop the case against the couple — Steve Monjeza, 26 and 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga. The two are accused of sodomy and public indecency. Malawi’s chief justice last month dismissed the couple’s appeal against the case, and a magistrate will give his verdict on March 22. They are widely expected to be jailed.
17 March 2010 – Fridae
Police: Penang becoming a gay sex services hub
by News Editor
The police in Penang have accused local authorities of inaction resulting in the state becoming a gay sex services hub. Penang police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakub has told Malaysia’s The Star newspaper that the state is becoming a hub for commercial gay sex services and the local councils seem to be encouraging it by not revoking the permits of establishments that had been raided by the police in recent years.
“Although we have forwarded our recommendations to the local councils not to renew the operators’ permits, we find the centres still in operation,” he was quoted as saying in The Star on Monday. “Because of the local authorities’ inaction, the operators have become big-headed, acting as if they are above the law. In fact, all the premises that we have raided are still carrying on with their businesses,” he said, adding that police had identified at least five health clubs catering to gay activities in Fettes Park, Pulau Tikus, Bagan Jermal and Seberang Jaya. He claimed that the health clubs are used as a front for commercial gay sex services.
On Tuesday, the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) responded saying it issues licences to fitness centres based on health care services policies and would cancel or not renew licences if police reports have been lodged against those centres for conducting “unhealthy activities.” Meanwhile, openly gay social commentator Hafidz Baharom who blogged on The Star’s website questioned why was the police only focusing on gay venues.
“While it’s true that there are centers in all states that are being used for sex, how is it that only those servicing homosexual clients are labeled as allowing ‘unhealthy culture’? Gay sex, by far, is the least of the police of Penang’s major concern when it comes to it’s objective of maintaining civil order.” Last month, Penang police raided two gay joints, a massage parlour and a fitness centre, and arrested 19 men including a 65-year-old grandfather.
March 17, 2010 – AP
Malawi church leaders meet on gay rights
Blantyre, Malawi(AP) — Church leaders say they have met in this fiercely conservative southern African nation to "understand the phenomenon" of same sex partners days ahead of a court verdict that could send two gay men to jail for up to 14 years. Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe, head of the Malawi Council of Churches, says the leaders gathered Wednesday in the southern town of Mangochi to discuss homosexuality as an issue "most Malawians do not understand."
Blantyre magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa is scheduled to deliver a verdict Monday on Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, arrested and jailed since Dec. 26 after holding a public engagement ceremony. Homosexuality is illegal in most sub-Saharan African countries. The arrests have outraged human rights groups and Western donors in Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest nations.
March 22, 2010 – PinkNews
Sentencing delayed for Malawi gay couple
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Two gay men who held a wedding ceremony in Malawi have had their sentencing delayed. Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were expected to be jailed today but the judge delayed sentencing and allowed them to call defence witnesses. Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa adjourned the case until April 3rd, saying the couple had a case to answer. The couple’s lawyer Oswald Ntuwakale told AFP: "The accused will want to defend themselves and call their own witnesses."
This morning’s hearing was packed and reports said a large group of people outside the courtroom jostled to be allowed in. Monjeza and Chimbalanga could face up to 14 years in jail, in line with the country’s strict laws on homosexuality. They have been in custody for almost three months, having twice been denied bail, and have pleaded not guilty to charges of sodomy and indecency.
They were arrested on December 28th after holding a traditional wedding ceremony in Blantyre. Their lawyers argue their arrest and detention is unconstitutional. A protest is being held today outside the Commonwealth offices in London to ask the Commonwealth to condemn homophobic persecution in Malawi.
March 22, 2010 – PinkNews
Malaysia allows gay film characters – with restrictions
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The predominantly Muslim country of Malaysia has decided to allow gay characters in films – as long as they repent or turn straight in the end. The country, which recently banned Bruno for its gay sex scenes, has released new censorship guidelines which are less prohibitive than previously.
President of the Malaysian Film Producers’ Association, Puad Onah, told AFP that the new rules were a reversal. He said: "We are now allowed to show these scenes. As long as we portray good triumphing over evil and there is a lesson learnt in the film, such as from a gay [character] who turns into a [straight] man. Previously we are not allowed to show these at all."
Scenes with kissing, nudity and obscenity will remain banned. Mr Onah added: "We can do almost anything now but we are urged to give due considerations on the film’s impact on certain areas like public order, religion, socio-culture elements and moral values." Malaysia has strict rules on public morality. Homosexuality is not specified as a crime, but Section 377 of the penal code prohibits sodomy, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The same law is still in force in other former British colonies, such as Singapore, although the New Delhi High Court in India recently struck it down. Malaysia also has a prohibition on "gross indecency with another male person," with up to two years in prison for those found guilty.
21 April 2010 – Sexually Transmitted Infections
Bisexual concurrency, bisexual partnerships, and HIV among Southern African men who have sex with men (MSM)
by Chris Beyrer, Gift Trapence, Felistus Motimedi, Eric Umar, Scholastika Iipinge, Friedel Dausab, Stefan Baral1, + Author Affiliations
Dr Stefan Baral, Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, E7146, 615 N Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; email@example.com
Contributors SB and CB designed the template protocol. CB led the writing of the manuscript, and SB led the data analysis. The in-country coordinators were FD in Namibia, GT in Malawi and FM in Botswana. EU and SI participated as coinvestigators providing in-country technical assistance and guidance on data analysis and the writing of the manuscript.
Accepted 9 February 2010
Published Online First 21 April 2010
Objectives The sexual behaviour of men who have sex with men (MSM) in southern Africa has been little studied. We present here the first data on bisexual partnerships and bisexual concurrency among MSM in Malawi, Namibia and Botswana.
Methods A cross-sectional probe of a convenience sample of 537 men who have ever reported anal sex with another man using a structured survey instrument and rapid-kit HIV screening.
Results 34.1% of MSM were married or had a stable female partner, and 53.7% reported both male and female sexual partners in the past 6 months. Bisexual concurrency was common, with 16.6% of MSM having concurrent relationships with both a man and a woman. In bivariate analyses, any bisexual partnerships were associated with lower education (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.3), higher condom use (OR 6.6, 95% CI 3.2 to 13.9), less likelihood of having ever tested for HIV (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.3), less likelihood of having disclosed sexual orientation to family (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.32 to 0.67) and being more likely to have received money for casual sex (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.3 to 2.7). Bisexual concurrency was associated with a higher self-reported condom use (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.0 to 3.1), being employed (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.2 to 2.9), lower likelihood of disclosure of sexual orientation to family (OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.65) and having paid for sex with men (OR 2.0, 95% CI 1.2 to 3.2).
Conclusions The majority of MSM in this study report some bisexual partnerships in the previous 6 months. Concurrency with sexual partners of both genders is common. Encouragingly, men reporting any concurrent bisexual activity were more likely to report condom use with sexual partners, and these men were not more likely to have HIV infection than men reporting only male partners. HIV-prevention programmes focussing on decreasing concurrent sexual partners in the African context should also target bisexual concurrency among MSM. Decriminalisation of same-sex practices will potentiate evidence-based HIV-prevention programmes targeting MSM.
April 29, 2010 – Behind The Mask
Mutharika Criticises Gay Movement
by Rex Chikoko (Daily Nation Correspondent)
Malawi – The homosexual movement in Malawi was dealt a heavy blow at the weekend when President Bingu wa Mutharika condemned the act, describing it as foreign and un-African. President Mutharika made the scathing remarks during the consecration of a Roman Catholic Bishop at Limbe Cathedral in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial city.
The president has never said a word since two gays — Mr Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Mr Steven Monjeza — openly engaged in Blantyre in December last year. The two were arrested and are awaiting judgement later this month. Meanwhile, Malawi Human Rights organisations are at a resort in Liwonde, Machinga District, where they have invited different stakeholders to discuss matters surrounding Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) groups. President Mutharika’s comments overshadowed the efforts by the lobby groups, which have been fighting for the recognition of homosexuals in Malawi.
The comments also cast a long shadow over the chances of Mr Chimbalanga and Mr Monjeza getting a fair trial. Mr Mutharika called upon religious leaders to pray for Malawi to return to the “good old days”. “Malawians are even aping cultures they do not understand. They are saying a man should marry a fellow man!
“This is evil and bad before the eyes of God. There are certain things we Malawians just do not do,” the president said. But at the conference in Liwonde, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation executive director Undule Mwakasungula said it was important for the country to discuss LGBT issues considering that research has indicated that Malawi has a growing number of homosexuals. Mr Mwakasungula said statistics showed that HIV and Aids prevalence among gays was high.