Jun 2, 2010
Responding to pressure from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Malawi's president Bingu wa Mutharika issued a pardon to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. The two had been sentenced to 14 years hard labor for having made public their devotion to each other as a gay couple.
Mutharika had spoken out against the pair during their trial, and his statement makes clear that if he had his druthers, there would have been no pardon at all:
"These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws. However, as the head of state, I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions. I have done this on humanitarian grounds, but this does not mean that I support this. ... We don't condone marriages of this nature. It's unheard of in Malawi and it's illegal."
The two were released to their separate villages, and late reports are that Chimbalanga has gone missing. One hopes that there is nothing serious to those reports, but since it is also reported that Chimbalanga is transgendered, there is cause for concern.
Certainly, it is hard to believe that either man is safe in his home country -- either from the government (The Minister of Gender, Women and Children has warned that the gay couple could be rearrested if they continue with their relationship) or from a mob taking matters into their own hands. The level of homophobia in much of Africa is the stuff of Tony Perkins' wet dreams.