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Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠

A Blog by Gary Wright II

Let's send a strong message to Malawi!

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Several people have asked me about my recent tweet:

Leaders of Malawi - Please release Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga from prison. President Bingu wa Mutharika - Can't you help them???
Twitter.com/garywright2

On December 28th, 2009, Steven Monjeza (age 26) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (age 20) were imprisoned in Malawi after holding an engagement ceremony in Chirimba. On Tuesday, the couple were sentenced to 14 years of prison with hard labor. They were both severely beaten by police while in custody, and Tiwonge was subjected to forcible anal examinations by authorities.

A huge group of citizens gathered in the streets of Blantyre and the court was packed with people as the judge handed down the conviction and issued his harsh sentence.

Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa told the men, "I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you." In my opinion, the public needs to be protected from people like this judge.

The only thing the couple is guilty of is loving each other. They are both consenting adults and pose absolutely no danger to society. I am outraged by their treatment, and I want to send a very strong message to Malawi.

The Deputy Africa Director at Amnesty International Michelle Kagari says, "Being in a relationship should not be a crime. No one should be arrested and detained solely on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Their human rights, the rights to freedom from discrimination, of conscience, expression and privacy have been flagrantly violated."

Such an examination performed without consent [the forced anal exam], contravenes the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. A fair trial would have ruled such evidence as inadmissible.

Criminalization of individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity is banned under treaties ratified by Malawi, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Malawi is legally bound by these treaties to respect and protect freedom of conscience, expression and the right to privacy, without discrimination on the grounds of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Can we do something to help? Yes. Malawi is a very poor country in Africa, and 40% of Malawi's development is completely dependent upon its donors. We can put tremendous pressure on the country through a boycott and by stopping all donations.

I've joined forces with numerous other human rights groups in a direct appeal to the leaders of Malawi. I hope you will join me.

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

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