Gay Couple Sentenced To 14 Years In Jail For Getting Married

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Gay Couple Sentenced To 14 Years In Jail For Getting Married

Thrown into jail for 14 years
under Malawi’s anti – gay
laws, Tiwonge Chimbalanga
has no regrets about the
marriage ceremony that
became a symbol of Africa’s
intolerance toward
In the first press interview
since being granted asylum
in South Africa, the 24-year-
old, who was freed amid
global pressure, urged more
Malawians to come out from
the shadows as the country’s
ban on same-sex
relationships eases.

“I don’t have any regrets, I
didn’t do anything wrong,”
Chimbalanga, who identifies
as a transgender woman
despite being tried as a gay
man, told AFP.
Known as Aunt Tiwo,
Chimbalanga and partner
Steven Monjeza drew a
harsh spotlight on deeply
conservative Malawi after the
couple were arrested for
holding a traditional
engagement ceremony in
late 2009. Branded as
Malawi’s first openly
lovebirds”, the pair were
sentenced to a maximum 14
years with hard labour as an
“horrendous example” and
led away from the court
handcuffed to one another
while onlookers jeered.

“I had mixed feelings
because on the one hand I
felt it was a wonderful thing
for me to do a normal,
natural thing like getting
married, whilst on the other
hand it was very painful. I
was beaten in prison. During
the trial the security guards
ill-treated me. I was verbally
abused and suffered all sorts
of inhumane treatments, I
have scars from the beatings.
Yet I felt good that I was
able to do what I wanted to
do,” said Chimbalanga.
International outrage
eventually forced a
begrudging presidential
pardon from the late Bingu
wa Mutharika who doggedly
described the couple as
“insane” and their ceremony
as “satanic.”

A recent moratorium on the
ban on same-sex
relationships under new
President Joyce Banda is
encouraging, but the war is
far from over, said

“The thing that I wish for in
Malawi is that all gays,
lesbians and transgenders
must come out and have
their rights like everybody
else. It seems that in Malawi
there are human rights for
the rich and another set for
the poor. I want everyone to
have their human rights and
freedom to choose what
they want to be and the only
way to achieve that is by
coming out and claiming
their rights,” she said.
After their release, the
couple broke up and
Chimbalanga spent months
hiding in a safe house before
being ferried last year to
South Africa, which has
equality rights enshrined in
the constitution. It is also the
only African country where
gay marriage is legal.

Homosexuality is illegal in 37
countries on the continent.
Chimbalanga is supported by
local transgender NGO
Gender Dynamix and
Amnesty International and in
her new one-room home,
reached by an outdoor
staircase lined with pot
plants, a bulging file of
papers documents her
ordeal. Chimbalanga believes
the couple were targeted as
they were the first to take
their relationship so public.

“I did nothing wrong not
even a tiny bit. Even here in
South Africa I want to get
married and I am going to
invite the reporters from
Malawi to come and witness
for themselves and to report
the truth about it. I want the
whole world to know
because this is not the end,”
she said.
My Zimbabwe


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