By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com May 18 2010 8:30 AM ET
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, the Malawi gay couple jailed since December for holding a public engagement ceremony, were convicted Tuesday of “unnatural acts and gross indecency” and face up to 14 years in prison.
According to the Associated Press, “Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa said the sentencing will take place on Thursday. The couple could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.”
Malawi is one of nearly 40 African countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Monjeza, 26, and Chimbalanga, 20, may be able to appeal, but the likelihood of success appears slim.
“Priti Patel of the Southern African Litigation Centre, an independent rights group, said Monjeza and Chimbalanga could appeal on the grounds that the laws under which they were prosecuted violate the country's 1994 constitution. But an earlier attempt by their lawyer to have the case thrown out on those grounds was rejected,” the AP reports.
Last week, gay rights leader Peter Tatchell told the UK Guardian that he had received a defiant message from Chimbalanga that said: “I love Steven so much. If people or the the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”