The president of Malawi, Bingu Wa Mutharika has pardoned the gay couple sentenced to 14 years hard labour for conducting an illegal wedding in the country. The move was announced during a visit to the country by the secretary general of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon.
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced to 14 years hard labour earlier this month for gross indecency and unnatural acts. At one point it was feared they could be sentenced to death.
Mr Mutharika told reporters “These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws.
“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”
Mr Ban hailed the decision as “courageous” adding: “this outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist.”
Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Steven and Tiwonge should never have been arrested, let along jailed for five months, convicted and sentence to 14 years hard labour. They love another and have harmed no one.
“I hope the government of Malawi will now show true humanitarian leadership by repealing homosexuality and enacting laws to protect gay people against discrimination and hate crimes, as South Africa has done.”
Last week, the openly gay International Development minister described the sentence as “shocking and disturbing” in an exclusive article for PinkNews.co.uk. He added that it violated Malawi’s own laws on human rights.
Sir Elton John, well known for his campaigning against the spreading of HIV and AIDs had written an open letter to Mr Mutharika which said: “their trial and harsh sentencing will have a perilous effect on our continuing efforts to combat Aids in Malawi and potentially reverse the gains we have achieved.”