The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) is pleased that the Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika has pardoned a queer couple who were sentenced to 14 years hard labour on May 20 for committing sodomy.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and his 20-year-old partner Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested on December 28 following a symbolic wedding.

When sentencing the couple, magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa told them, “I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example”.

This decision received international condemnation from countries, including the United States and Ireland.

On May 30, following talks with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mutharika announced the pardon.

“I have decided that with effect from today, they are pardoned and they will be released,” Mutharika said.

“I do appreciate and commend the very courageous decision to pardon these two gay boys…

This outdated penal code should be reformed wherever it may exist,” Ban said.

Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries. South Africa is the only country on the continent to recognise same-sex marriages.

While is it disappointing that couples continue to be persecuted for their sexual orientation and gender identity, it is encouraging that the United Nations and international human rights principles appear to be having a positive impact on these unjust laws.

The GLRL encourages the NSW and federal Governments to act in accordance with Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and amend adoption, marriage and anti-discrimination laws to that ensure that lesbians, gay men and their families are treated equally under the law.

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