“Sex and the City 2” opens Thursday in theaters across the nation. The film promises loads of exciting scenes including the series’ gay men Stanford Blatch and Anthony Marentino publicly exchanging martial vows in an over-the-top wedding. If Stanford and Anthony were in Malawi, they wouldn’t be walking down the aisle, they would be walking to a cell block.
News surfaced this week that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, two men in Malawi were convicted of “unnatural acts and gross indecency” for being publicly homosexual. The two men were sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed by law, 14 years of hard labor in prison.
The conviction and sentence causes shock and protest by human rights organizations around the world. Malawi Magistrate Nkyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa says he was especially offended the two lovers celebrated their relationships in public with an engagement party. He said, “I do not believe Malawi is ready at this point in time to see its sons getting married to other sons, or cohabitating, or conducting engagement ceremonies.” The magistrate continues, “Malawi is not ready to smile at her daughters marrying each other. Let posterity judge this judgment.”
The New York Times reports homosexuality is regarded as detestable by most people in Malawi, a nation of 15 million in southern Africa. Reportedly gays, lesbians and transgendered people wouldn’t dare demonstrate their affections in public.
Even though Malawi relies heavily on foreign aid–40 percent to be exact, Leckford Thotho, the minister of information and civil affairs says he will not be “cowed” by the indignation of donors. “You must understand the culture and traditions of Malawi, and what these two did is taboo,” Thotho said.
Reportedly the couple’s public engagement party was blasted on the front page of a local newspaper. Two days later the couple was arrested. They were refused bail and have been contained since December 28.
The couple maintains their public demonstration of love for each other was not an assertion of gay rights. The New York Times reports they were unaware of the possible repercussions.
In an interview Tiwonge Chimbalanga says, “I just wanted people to know we were in love.” He said he considers himself a woman and had been eager to dress as a bride.
The couple’s conviction is likely to be appealed, though their lawyer said he would have to confer with his clients.
Malawi’s government makes a bold statement in a time where gay rights are considered civil and human rights. According to the reports, Malawian government stands firm on its decision and is seemingly unswayed by what the rest of the world thinks.
Photo Source: Eldson Chagara/Reuters
What are your thoughts on this? Is this a violation of human rights? Or should any given country be able to define human rights within their own legal system?