MALAWI: MALAWI GAY COUPLE APPEAL

Salc : Staff Writer

Lawyers for Malawi’s convicted first openly gay couple has said the pair has instructed him to appeal to the country’s High Court against the harsh sentence handed to them.

Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa sentenced Steven Monjeza and his partner Tiwonge Chimbalanga to 14 years’ hard labor after they were convicted for homosexuality charges.

Lawyer of the gay couple, Mauya Msuku, said he has been instructed by his clients to file an appeal this week, having been unsatisfied by the Chief Magistrate’s ruling of the case.

“I have been instructed by my clients to lodge an appeal to the High Court against the Magistrate’s ruling. I will be filing the grounds of appeal this week,” he said.

The appeal has the backing of rights campaigner, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR). The organisation’s head, Undule Mwakasungura said the whole process of the gay trial had not been fair to them in terms of their human rights.

Mwakasungura cited the fact that the couple had been denied bail even though he said Malawian courts had been granting bail in more serious cases like murder and treason.

He said the case had been influenced and politicised by Malawian government authorities.

“The whole government was not for the gay couple to be released. Even the judiciary was playing in the hands of the authorities,” he told VOA.

Mwakasungura said repeated comments by Malawian government officials including President Bingu wa Mutharika against homosexuality, even while the case was being tried, might have influenced the judge to give the maximum sentence of 14 years’ hard labour.

He said his organization and other human rights groups planned to appeal the sentencing at the High Court.

Mwakasungura disagreed with Magistrate Usiwa Usiwa who reportedly said during the sentencing that the Malawian society did not want to see its sons getting married to other sons.

He said keeping their pair in prison would not change their sexual orientation but urged the Malawi society to stop homophobia.

Meanwhile, United Nations executive director Michael Sidibe and global Fund director Michael Kazatchkine in their courtesy have disclosed that they had a lengthy discussion with President Bingu wa Mutharika on the recent conviction of the two gay couple.

They said the President response was positive but said he had told them the issue of gays was still a phenomenon in Malawi and there was an already ongoing debate in the country, which he said needed more time on the issue.