Rev Sharon Ferguson, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has condemned in the strongest terms the sentence handed down by a judge in Malawi to Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, who were arrested in December 2009 after holding an engagement ceremony.
The couple have been sentenced to 14 years hard labour having been convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts. Malawi is a conservative country where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism. The harsh sentence by Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa was given as a warning for others, "so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example."
Rev Sharon Ferguson said: “We are horrified and outraged by the sheer injustice, and downright cruelty of this sentence. We understand that murderers and rapists often receive more lenient sentences in Malawi. This young couple have done nothing other than love each other and celebrate this love with their family and friends. They have done no harm to anyone and indeed in a world of violence and hatred they have set an example of deep love and courage.”
LGCM is thankful for and fully endorses the support of Outrage and Amnesty International among others and joins with them in urging people to make known their feelings about the case to the British and Malawi governments, and to write to the prisoners themselves.
Rev Ferguson added: “Steven and Tiwonge can appeal to the High Court but although this sentence goes against the clear protections of Malawi law against discrimination, the fear is that homophobia is so rife even among the most senior judges that the sentence will not be overturned. This treatment denies not only basic human rights but is an affront to the God of love.“