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Malawi couple lose appeal, to be sentenced March 22
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Malawi couple lose appeal, to be sentenced March 22

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Malawi's Constitutional Court has declined to hear the appeal of Steven Monjeza and his Transgender wife Tiwonge Chimbalanga, and they will be sentenced on charges of 'gross indecency' next month.

The couple was arrested shortly after their December 26 wedding, and have been held in jail ever since. They were reportedly beaten in jail and forced to undergo rectal examinations to establish if they had had sex.

The two will face prison sentences of up to 14 years when sentenced on March 22.

The couple's attorney, Mauya Msuku, argued that they were protected by anti-discrimination language in Malawi's constitution.

Msuku appealed to the Constitutional Court in January, saying that the law on homosexuality violated his clients' constitutional rights to privacy, belief, and self-expression.

Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo said on February 22 that the case was a simple criminal proceeding without any constitutional implications.

"There are no elements in the case that relate to the interpretation or application of the constitution," Munlo said in his ruling.

The proceedings "deal with criminal offences under the penal code, namely the offence of buggery [anal sex] and indecent practices," he stated.

Chimbalanga was born biologically male, but has always identified as a woman, according to her relatives. She met Monjeza at the church they both attend.

Her pastor testified in court that he has accepted her as a member in good standing of the church's women's group.

Amnesty International called the couple "prisoners of conscience" and called for their release.

"Amnesty International considers individuals imprisoned solely for their consensual sexual relationship in private as prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release," the group said.

Police in Malawi have recently arrested at least two other men on charges of sodomy, and one additional man for putting up Gay rights posters.

Some police officials in the African country have indicated they believe there is an international Gay conspiracy at work in their country.

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