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Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠

A Blog by Gary Wright II

President of Malawi Pardons Monjeza and Chimbalanga

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

I just got word that President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi has pardoned Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

On Thursday, May 20, 2010, activists from around the world came together to help this couple. Since Malawi depends on donations for over 40% of it's development funds, it didn't take long for the country to get the message.

Although I didn't want to punish the citizens of Malawi by pulling the funding, it was the quickest way to apply pressure to the leadership. It worked! Thank you to everyone who helped me send letters and make phone calls.

Background:
On December 28th, 2009, Steven Monjeza (age 26) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (age 20) were imprisoned in Malawi after holding an engagement ceremony in Chirimba. 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.

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.

Response:
The White House said it is pleased to learn of the pardon, stressing that the couple are "not criminals and their struggle is not unique. We must all recommit ourselves to ending the persecution and criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. We hope that President Mutharika's pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country's history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe."

The British government said, "Human rights apply to everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Britain has a close and strong partnership with Malawi, and it is in this spirit that we raised our concerns about these convictions with the Government of Malawi."

After the President of Malawi met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, he issued the pardon.

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

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