A Victory for a Gay Couple in Malawi Charts the Long Road to Success for LGBT Communities in Africa
My last post on ‘LGBT Rights in Africa‘ focused on Uganda’s pending anti-homosexuality law and how it caused international outrage and expressions of support for LGBT community in Uganda. Now we will look slightly over 1,000 miles south of Uganda to Malawi.
On May 20, 2010, a gay couple living in Malawi was sentenced to 14 years of hard labor for being in a same-sex relationship and celebrating with an engagement party — a first in Malawi. Public opinion in Malawi seemed to agree with the ruling in another step backwards on LGBT rights in Africa. On a continent where more than 30 countries condemn homosexuality, this brings to light the work we need to do so that we can free Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Steven Monjeza, and thousands of other LGBT people.
Since the sentence, the couple has been pardoned by Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika. It seems that the international pressure has convinced Mutharika to pardon them, though on humanitarian grounds. It was made very clear that this is not an acceptance of homosexuality, nor will any laws be changed. June is LGBT Pride month and this is a pivotal time for human rights activists to call for a repeal of discriminatory laws and to end the persecution of gay people.
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