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African and British human rights campaigners rallied outside the Commonwealth’s head quarters in London on Monday 22 March. They were protesting against the prosecution and imprisonment of the Malawian same-sex couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, on charges of homosexuality, and against the Commonwealth’s failure to condemn their arrest and detention in Chichiri prison.

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9th April 2010 13:36

raquelandrade | Pan Africa ILGA


The keynote speaker at the protest was Edi Phiri, a gay Malawian who fled his country after he was badly beaten and had threats to kill him.
He said: “I urge my President and government to intervene to release Steven and Tiwonge. These two men don’t deserve the way they are suffering in jail.
“The delay in the trial and the postponed verdict is a sign that the government and judiciary are split. Some officials want to convict and others don’t. They keep on putting off the verdict. It is unfair to treat Steven and Tiwonge like this.
“International solidarity protests are really important to make sure these men get their freedom.
“Malawi’s anti-gay laws are not African. They were imposed by the British colonisers nearly two centuries ago,” said Mr Phiri.
Similar concerns were echoed by protest coordinator, Peter Tatchell, of the London-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights group OutRage!
“The judge has refused Tiwonge and Steven bail. Imprisoning them for three months without a verdict is an abuse of law and a violation of their right to a swift and fair trial. These men are innocent until proven guilty. So why are they in prison?” he queried.
“Tiwonge and Steven love each other and have harmed no one. But they could be jailed for up to 14 years.
“This protest was organised in response to an appeal for help from the jailed men.
From their prison cell in Malawi, Steven and Tiwonge sent a message to me in London, urging international pressure to secure their release.
“Tiwonge and Steven have been arrested, prosecuted and held in jail solely because of their sexual orientation. We want them released, all charges dropped and the repeal of Malawi’s anti-homosexuality laws. These laws violate the equality and non-discrimination provisions of Article 20 of the Malawian Constitution and Articles 2, 3 and 4 and the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold,” added Mr Tatchell.
Monday’s demonstration was jointly sponsored by OutRage!, Black Gay Men’s Advisory Group, Gay Activists Alliance International, Red Room, Rukus! Foundation and an informal coalition of black and African LGBT activists in London.
The rally was co-compared by Dennis Hambridge and Davis Mac-Iyalla, a gay Nigerian activist, both of Gay Activists Alliance International.