Malawi gay trial – three human rights defenders arrested, and bailed

This is a guest post by Peter Tatchell

Executive Director of CEDEP will hand himself in to police on Monday

“A total of three Malawian human rights defenders have now been arrested. All have been associated with the campaign to defend Steven Monjeza (26) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20), who held a same-sex engagement ceremony in Malawi two weeks ago.

“Both men are being held on remand in Chichiri Prison on charges of homosexuality, pending their trial on 15 January. I have sent a message of support, which has been delivered to them in jail,” reports London-based LGBT human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!

A copy of the message follows below.

“The three arrested activists have been bailed pending further police investigations. One is facing pornography charges relating to safer sex and HIV education materials. He was required to report to the police today,” added Mr Tatchell.

“The Executive Director of CEDEP, Gift Trapence, has not yet been arrested but plans to hand himself in to the police next Monday.

“All four campaigners work for the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), which does HIV prevention work among marginalised Malawian communities, including sex workers, migrants, prisoners and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“Fortunately, all these activists have good legal representation, headed by Mauya Msuku. Mr Msuku is planning to submit a new legal application to secure bail for Steven and Tiwonge and to get the charges against them dropped. His submission argues that Malawi’s laws against homosexuality are discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.

“Yesterday, the two men were taken to hospital, where they were going to be subjected to intimate internal medical examinations, in a bid to determine whether they have had sex with each other. Both Steven and Tiwonge were planning to refuse to give their consent. We are still awaiting news on whether these examinations were carried out against their will. If they were, it would constitute unlawful assault and could invalidate the police case against them,” said Mr Tatchell.

A copy of the OutRage! message to Tiwonge and Steven follows below, together with contact details for Gift Trapence of CEDEP.

Dear Tiwonge and Steven,

May 2010 bring you and all Malawians justice, freedom and equality.

Congratulations on your courageous witness for gay human rights, as you battle for your right to be accepted, without discrimination.

Millions of people around the world know about your arrest and detention. You have received worldwide news coverage.

Stay Strong. We are with you in this period of trial and tribulation.

You are inspirations to us all. We salute you.

Take heart. You will win in the end. Justice and freedom will triumph.

You follow in the footsteps of the Malawians who fought against colonialism and the South Africans who battled against apartheid. They were arrested and persecuted, but they were victorious eventually.

Tell the judge that Malawi’s anti-gay law was not devised by Malawians. It is was devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws.

You are making history, and history will honour you.

I send you love and solidarity!

Peter Tatchell, OutRage! London, UK

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