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23
Mar

Malawi protest for Commonwealth HQ

malawiprotestGay rights protestors held a demonstration outside the Commonwealth’s London headquarters on Monday 22 March in protest against the prosecution and imprisonment of the Malawian same-sex couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, on charges of homosexuality. The protestors were outraged at the Commonwealth's failure to condemn the couple’s arrest and detention in Malawi’s Chichiri prison.

The keynote speaker at the protest was Edi Phiri, a gay Malawian who fled his country after he was badly beaten and threatened with murder.

“I urge my President and government to intervene to release Steven and Tiwonge,” he said. “These two men don't deserve the way they are suffering in jail. The delay in the trial and the postponed verdict is a sign that the government and judiciary are split. Some officials want to convict and others don't. They keep on putting off the verdict. It is unfair to treat Steven and Tiwonge like this.”

His sentiments were echoed by fellow protestor Peter Tatchell of gay rights group Outrage.

"Tiwonge and Steven have been arrested, prosecuted and held in jail solely because of their sexual orientation. We want them released, all charges dropped and the repeal of Malawi's anti-homosexuality laws.”

“Of the 53 Commonwealth member states, over 40 still criminalise same-sex relations, mostly under anti-gay laws that were originally imposed by the British government in the nineteenth century, during the period of colonial rule.

"These homophobic colonialist laws, which were retained after independence, are wrecking the lives of LGBT people throughout the Commonwealth.”

The couple were arrested in December after staging a traditional wedding ceremony. The deny charges of gross indecency, in a trial that is being seen as a test case for gay rights in Malawi. At the time of going to press, a Malawian judge had ruled that the trial would now go ahead in April. Homosexual acts in the African state carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

Photos © Brett Lock/Outrage

Posted: 23 March 2010

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