The Malawi gay couple pardoned by
President Bingu wa Mutharika praised their liberator on Thursday, the
In a joint statement, the pair said
Mutharika had demonstrated that he is “a caring father, a
considerate and tolerant president” in sparing them from a harsh
sentence for being gay.
“We wish him good health in his
everyday endeavors as he continues leading the country to respecting
human rights and to economic prosperity,” the couple said.
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza
were charged with and found guilty of unnatural acts and gross
indecency for participating in a symbolic engagement ceremony in
December. They were sentenced to serve 14-years of hard labor.
“I will give you a scaring sentence
so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are
not tempted to emulate this horrendous example,” Magistrate
Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said.
The sentence was condemned by the
United States and Britain. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley
called the harsh sentence “appalling.”
Mutharika reversed the ruling after
meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Malawi.
The president, however, has not back
down from his opposition to gay rights. In urging the country
Wednesday to stop talking about the ordeal, the 76-year-old Mutharika
called the gay ceremony “satanic” and “a crime against our
culture, against our religion and against our laws.” But added
that he pardoned the couple because “to err is human and to forgive
It is a criminal offense to be gay in
at least thirty-seven African countries. Even in South Africa, where
gay marriage is legal, anti-gay sentiment runs high.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
praised the pardon, calling the decision “courageous.” President
Mutharika “has provided an example for nations across Africa and
the world as they debate laws that criminalize sexual orientation.”
“Human rights belong to all, and must
be respected by all,” Clinton added. “Sexual orientation and
gender identity should under no circumstances be the basis for
criminal penalties, in particular executions, arrests or detention.”