Sentence too harsh for gay couple, says newspaper


A top Malawian daily warned Friday the maximum 14-year jail sentence with hard labour handed down to a gay couple was too harsh and portrayed Malawi as a cruel nation, a report carried by the AFP said.

“Our worry is the message this sentence is sending, considering that we are in a democratic society where everyone is supposed to enjoy rights enshrined in the constitution,” said an editorial in the independent Nation newspaper.

“There is something grossly wrong” the paper said.
Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were sentenced Thursday after being convicted of sodomy for holding the southern African country’s first same-sex wedding in December.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and most other African countries.
The Nation described Chimbalanga, 20, and Monjeza, 26, as “harmless citizens who committed a crime supposedly in the confines of their privacy”.

In South Africa, the only African nation to legalise same-sex marriage, newspapers said the ruling posed a challenge to the country’s own supposed tolerance.

The Times newspaper said protection of gay rights did not preclude lesbians being raped and gay men beaten up in South Africa, in an editorial headlined “Malawi gay trial a blow to human rights in Africa”.

“Sovereign rights aside, we should be talking about respecting and upholding a human rights culture that should prevail irrespective of a country’s sovereignty,” it said.