Friday, April 9, 2010

Malawi: “Marriage Trial” Threatens Rights

The attempt to convict two people whom the government accuses of breaking laws against homosexual conduct after they went through an engagement ceremony violates basic freedoms on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Malawian authorities. Human Rights Watch called on the prosecutors to drop all charges against Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza and on the government to reaffirm its commitment to all Malawians' right to equality, privacy, and dignity.

"The case against Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza is an affront to essential principles of non-discrimination and equality," said Dipika Nath, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "It singles out two people as criminals simply because they love each other."

Chimbalanga, age 20, and Monjeza, 26, were arrested on December 28, 2009, following media coverage of their traditional engagement ceremony in Blantyre on December 26. They were charged under sections 153 ("unnatural offences") and 156 ("indecent practices between males") of Malawi's criminal code. They have been in custody since then, first at the Blantyre police station and then at Chichri prison, also in Blantyre. The men told their lawyers that they were beaten by officers at the police station to try to make them confess to having engaged in homosexual conduct and being in a homosexual relationship.

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