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 reported.

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 country.

“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.