Pardoned gay couple praise Malawian president

2010-06-03 11:58

The gay couple in Malawi that received a presidential pardon from a

14-year sodomy sentence today called President Bingu wa Mutharika a “caring

father” and a “tolerant president”.

“The president has demonstrated that he is a caring father, and a

considerate and tolerant president. We wish him good health in his everyday

endeavours as he continues to lead the country towards a respect for human

rights and economic prosperity,” the couple said in a statement.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga (20) and Steven Monjeza (26) gave a brief news

conference in Lilongwe yesterday, their first public appearance since Saturday’s

pardon. The couple was arrested for performing a symbolic wedding.

The pardon followed a meeting between Mutharika and UN

secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Malawi has been sharply criticised by the international community

for jailing the couple and maintaining laws that criminalise

homosexuality.

The couple asked the media and the public to respect their

privacy.

“So much has been said and written about us, both positive and

negative. We think this is the time for us to be given an opportunity to enjoy

our freedom,” they said.

They called their ordeal “the most stressful period in our

lives”.

Chimbalanga said in a phone interview that he was in Lilongwe to

“take a breather”, while his partner had returned to his village.

Gift Trapence, director of the Centre for the Development of

People, which paid the couple’s legal fees, said the group was trying to find

jobs for Chimbalanga and Monjeza.

Mutharika yesterday asked the country to stop talking about the

couple’s “satanic” wedding.

The public mood in Malawi has generally been in favour of the heavy

sentence and against the pardon.

“The story ends there,” Mutharika told reporters. “I don’t want to

hear anyone commenting on them. Nobody is authorised to comment on the gays. You

will spoil things.”

He said the couple’s wedding was “satanic” because “they committed

a crime against our culture, against our religion and against our laws”.

However, he said he pardoned them because “to err is human and to forgive is

divine”.



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