While many westernized nations around the world are progressing, albeit slowly in some places such as the United States, many nations still persecute members of the LGBT community solely for being who they are. Recently a male couple chose to participate in a marriage ceremony in the African replublic of Malawi, a region where gay lifestyle is shunned upon, most likely as a result of ignorance. It is a very brave move for anyone to stand up and take a stance, and I think global organizations such as United Nations and Amnesty International need to get involved immmediately to prevent these two innocent individuals from going to jail.
Malawi's government recently defended the prosecution of this couple, and Information Minister Leckford Mwanza Thoto noted that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were clearly breaking the laws of Malawi. He was quoted in the Mail and Guardian online as saying, "Despite Malawi depending on international aid, the country is a sovereign country with its own laws and must not be influenced by the West in the running of its affairs of state."
Monjeze and Chimbalanga were arrested on December 28th after holding a wedding ceremony in Blantyre. They face up to 14 years in prison if convicted. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been remanded in custody after failing to secure bail.
The men's lawyers are arguing that the prosecution is unconstitutional and have asked for a review of the country's homosexuality laws. Their legal team has asked for the case to be held before the Constitutional Court, but the presiding judge in Blantyre has said he will continue with the trial until the higher court accepts the case. The trial is expected to resume next week.
Since their arrest the police and government has allowed these men to be publicly ridiculed, held in jail without sufficient reason, and have succumbed to considerable stress and inhumane living conditions that has brought on severe illness and health concerns. The time to act is now. Send word out to the world that ignorance, disrimination and inhumanity will not be tolerated.
Government of Malawi - www.malawi.gov.mw
United Nations - www.un.org
Amnesty International - www.amnesty.org
More on Malawi -
The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and it borders Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size is over 118,000 km² with an estimated population of more than 13,900,000. Its capital is Lilongwe, the biggest city is Blantyre. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area.
Malawi was first settled during the 10th century and remained under native rule until 1891 when it was colonized by the British, who ruled the country until 1964. Upon gaining independence it became a single-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained president until 1994, when he was ousted from power. Bingu Mutharika, elected in 2004, is the current president. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government. Malawi has a small military force that includes an army, a navy and an air wing. Malawi's foreign policy is pro-Western and includes positive diplomatic relations with most countries and participation in several international organizations.
Malawi is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000. The Malawian government faces challenges in growing the economy, improving education, health care and the environmental protection and becoming financially independent. Malawi has several programs developed since 2005 that focus on these issues, and the country's outlook appears to be improving, with improvements in economic growth, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008.
Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labor force and government expenditures, and is expected to have a significant impact on gross domestic product (GDP) by 2010. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was tribal conflict in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had begun to form. Malawi has a culture combining native and colonial aspects, including sports, art, dance and music.