/ 20 May 2010

Malawi court sentences gay couple to 14 years in prison

Malawi Court Sentences Gay Couple To 14 Years In Prison

A Malawi court has sentenced a gay couple to the maximum 14 years in prison for unnatural acts and gross indecency.

The harsh sentence had been expected after the same court convicted Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza earlier this week under Malawi’s anti-gay laws dating from the colonial era.

Malawi’s government has been defiant in the face of international criticism over the couple’s prosecution.

Chimbalanga, a 20-year-old hotel janitor, and his unemployed partner were arrested the day after they celebrated their engagement with a party at the hotel where Chimbalanga worked — an apparent first in Malawi.

“I sentence you to 14 years’ imprisonment with hard labour each. That’s the maximum under the penal code,” said magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa.

“I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example,” added the judge.

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 37 countries in Africa, including Malawi. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a Bill that could sentence homosexuals to life in prison, and includes capital punishment for “repeat offenders”. — Sapa-AP, AFP