MSMGF Outraged at 14 Year Imprisonment of Monjeza and Chimbalanga in Malawi
Brutal sentence violates human rights, undermines fight against HIV and AIDS
Oakland, Calif., May 21, 2010 – The Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF) is outraged at the
sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga to 14 years in prison and hard labor for
charges of unnatural acts and gross indecency. The two have been imprisoned since last
December, when they were arrested shortly after their engagement ceremony.
Most disturbing about this atrocious ruling is that the two were explicitly given the maximum
possible sentence. The BBC reports that Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa told the pair: "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."
This harsh sentencing is a watershed moment in a series of recent discriminatory actions not
only in Africa, but also in Central America, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Middle East –
highlighting the terrifying potential of what has become a global backslide on the human rights
of men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people.
“I am speechless with horror,” said Dr. Robert Carr, Co-Chair of the MSMGF and Associate
Director of Policy & Advocacy at the International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO).
“This sentence and the law under which it was carried out go against everything we know about
human rights, everything we know about public health.
“They have no qualms about treating gay men and transgender people like animals, and this
same thinking is expressed by numerous member states of the United Nations. As a global
community, we have to do better than this. We cannot allow blatant human rights violations to
openly occur under the dubious banner of ‘cultural’ or ‘moral’ values – they have to be seen for
what they are: shameful.”
HIV, health and human rights organizations around the world were quick to condemn the ruling,
many pointing to human rights abuses against MSM leading to elevated risk of HIV. UNAIDS
urged all governments to ensure full respect for the human rights of MSM and other sexual
minorities by repealing laws that prohibit sexual acts between consenting adults in private,
enforcing laws to protect these groups from violence and discrimination, promoting campaigns
that address homophobia and transphobia, and ensuring that crucial health needs are met.
“Words fail to capture the scale of my distress, but our collective outrage is not enough,” asserted
Dr. George Ayala, MSMGF Executive Officer. “It is incumbent upon all those who value health and
human rights – especially thought leaders in health, justice, and government around the world –
to publically denounce this and all forms of violence and criminalization against same-gender
loving and transgender people, to work to free Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga and
others whose rights have been unjustly taken away, and to re-commit ourselves to realizing the
vision of a world with health and dignity for all.”