If found guilty they might be sentenced to 14 years each in jail. Thoughts?
A trial involving Malawi’s first married gay couple was
adjourned today after one of the accused collapsed in court and was
subjected to homophobic abuse from the public gallery.
Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who has spent more than a week in one of
the country’s most congested prisons, vomited and stumbled onto the
dusty court floor just before the case was due to start.
As he lay on the ground he was jeered by members of the public
who had crowded in to watch what has become a cause célèbre and a test
case for gay rights in the African nation.
“Auntie Tiwo ali ndi mimba” — or “Auntie Tiwo is pregnant” — people said.
With no one to assist him, Mr Chimbalanga, 20, dressed with a
traditional dotted red and yellow striped wrapper around his waist and
a red top, finally managed to stand and was allowed to leave to clean
A few minutes later he re-emerged with a mop and a pail to clean
the vomit from the court floor — a chore that women in Africa typically
have to perform even when they are sick.
Mr Chimbalanga and his partner Steve Monjeza, 26, have been
charged with unnatural practices between men and gross public indecency
because they were “married” in a gay civil ceremony.
Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa, chief resident magistrate at the court in
Blantyre, ordered that Mr Chimbalanga be taken to hospital for
treatment. His lawyers told the packed court that he has severe malaria
and needed more time to rest before the case could resume. It was
adjourned until January 25.
In the past two weeks there has been growing animosity in Malawi
towards the couple. A judge last week denied them bail for their own
Lawyers for the couple on Tuesday this week filed papers for the
case to go to the country’s chief justice for a constitutional review.
They want the chief justice to adjudicate on whether laws under which
they have been charged are consistent with the country’s constitution.
“We want the Chief Justice to empanel the three judges to hear
the case … our argument is that the penal code under which our clients
were charged is unconstitutional as it is against the spirit of the
constitution,” argued Mauya Msuku, one of the couple’s legal team.
So far the two men have undergone what rights groups have
described as inhumane medical tests to prove whether the two have had
intercourse and whether they are mentally stable.
Homosexuality is a criminal offence in the conservative southern African nation and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.