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Malawi: Gay Couple Pardoned

(June 2, 2010) On May 29, 2010, Malawi's President, Bingu wa Mutharika, announced a pardon for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who had been sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment earlier in May. Their conviction as a gay couple was technically for “indecent practices between males” and “unnatural offences.” (In Malawi, Ban Welcomes Pardoning of Gay Couple, UN NEWS, May 29, 2010, email transmission from [email protected].)

Commenting on the pardon, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it courageous and said that he hoped Malawi's legislature “will take appropriate steps to update laws discriminating based on sexual orientation in line with international standards.” (Id.) Speaking to the Parliament, Ban decried those who “stay quiet when people are denied fundamental rights – whatever their race or faith or age or gender or sexual orientation.” (Id.)

For his part, Mutharika stated that the pardon, which resulted in the release of the two men from prison on the same day it was issued, was given on humanitarian grounds and did not signal a change in policy regarding the illegality of homosexuality in Malawi. (Raphael Tenthani, Malawi Gay Couple Keep Low Profile After Pardon, THE WASHINGTON POST, May 30, 2010, available at