Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have been in prison since their public engagement in December 2009. This week they were convicted for “unnatural acts and gross indecency”. They were given the maximum sentence of 14 years’ imprisonment. The couple has appealed to the Supreme Court, which means that the sentence is not final.
“Norway regrets the conviction of the Malawian couple Tiwonge and Steven. It is unacceptable that they are being punished for wanting to live together in a loving relationship,” said Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim.
Norway and the EU are concerned about homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in Malawi. In their declaration, they deplore the conviction, and point out that it is not only a violation of human rights obligations, but also a breach of Malawi's international commitments.
The full text of the declaration is available here.
“It worries me that Malawi is now reviving a dormant provision of its penal code. This could set a precedent for criminal prosecution on the basis of sexual orientation. In Norway’s view, this is not in keeping with human rights,” said Mr Solheim.
The Minister of the Environment and International Development raised this matter with the Malawian authorities when he visited the country in March. The Norwegian Embassy in Malawi has followed the case closely, and is supporting a number of measures aimed at improving the situation for homosexuals in the country.