A gay couple who took part in a
symbolic wedding ceremony in December were found guilty on Tuesday of
unnatural acts and gross indecency, the New York Times
The men, Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 33, and
Steven Monjeza, 26, were arrested two days after holding their
ceremony in Blantyre, Malawi's commercial city.
Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa found
the couple guilty of “carnal knowledge” that was “against the
order of nature.” The men – who are expected to be sentenced on
Thursday – face up to 14 years in prison.
The AFP reported that hundreds of
people attended the couple's wedding, believed to be the first in the
“I went there to see for myself a gay
couple,” Finiasi Chikaoneka told the news service.
“There were many people who were just
curious about the whole affair because this was the first time that
gays have come out openly,” he added.
Anti-gay sentiment in Africa has risen
to dramatic new highs in recent years, prompting lawmakers to press
for stronger punishments against being gay. A proposed law in Uganda
that has drawn worldwide outrage would outlaw gay sex and includes a
death provision for repeat offenders and people who are HIV-positive,
increasing the penalties for having gay sex in a country where it's
already banned. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has rejected a call
to protect gay men and lesbians in a constitution being drawn up
under a power-sharing deal. “We can't do it or the dead will turn
in their graves,” he said.
Speaking last month during the
installation of a Roman Catholic Bishop in Blantyre, Malawi President
Bingu wa Mutharika condemned being gay: “This is evil and bad
before the eyes of God. There are certain things we Malawians just
do not do.”
The men have been held in separate
cells since their December 28 arrest.