Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, a gay male couple in Malawi that was convicted earlier this week of unnatural acts and gross indecency following their engagement ceremony, were sentenced today to the maximum penalty allowed by law, 14 years of hard labor in prison. You can read more about the case here.
The State Department, which earlier condemned the conviction, had this to say about today's sentence:
"The United States is appalled by today’s sentencing of same-sex couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years of hard labor. We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as a step backward in the protection of human rights in Malawi. We are particularly disturbed by the severity of the sentence. The Government of Malawi must respect the human rights of all of its citizens. The United States views the decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as integral to the protection of human rights in Malawi and elsewhere in the world."
ON EDIT - Below is the full statement the Department just released to the press:
"The United States is appalled by the conviction and sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza to 14 years in jail with hard labor under Malawian law for violating Malawi Penal Code Chapter 15, Section 153 and 156, under which they had been charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and “gross indecency.” The conviction and sentencing are a significant step backward for the Government of Malawi’s human rights record. Malawi must abide by its human rights obligations.
We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity and sentencing to 14 years hard labor as a deeply troubling violation of human rights. Decriminalization of homosexuality is integral to the continued protection of universal human rights in Malawi. It is also crucial to the urgent need to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS – a fight in which the United States is closely allied with the Malawian people.
We remain disturbed by harassment, persecution, and exclusion based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever it occurs. The State Department will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-gender community worldwide. We urge Malawi and all countries with similar laws to take the necessary measures to ensure that sexual orientation or gender identity may under no circumstances be the basis for criminal penalties, in particular arrests, detentions, or executions. "