Sixty-five British MPs have condemned the arrest and trial of a same-sex couple in Malawi on charges of homosexuality. They have signed an Early Day Motion (a parliamentary petition), calling for their release.
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who were arrested after going through a traditional engagement ceremony, are awaiting a verdict on Monday (22 March). They could each be given fourteen years imprisonment.
The signatories to the Early Day Motion (EDM 654) include Conservative, Labour Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Ulster Unionist and Independent MPs. It has been tabled by John Hemming MP, a Liberal Democrat.
The motion urges the release of the couple, the dropping of all charges and the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
It says that this would be in accordance with the principles of equality and non-discrimination found in “the Malawian constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights”.
Amnesty International has recognised Monjeza and Chimbalanga as prisoners of conscience.
"The EDM has been communicated to the Malawian High Commissioner in London,” explained the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Tatchell added, “Malawi's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have a right to privacy, equality, respect and dignity, under the country's constitution and under international humanitarian law”.
Appealing to the “kindness and generosity of the Malawian people and government”, he urged Malawi's government to "recognise that this trial and the criminalisation of homosexuality are contrary to the human rights principles that Malawi has embraced since its transition from dictatorship to democracy”.