I’m horrified by the news that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced today to 14 years of hard labor for being gay. In Malawi, homosexuality is against the law.
I’m horrified–in place of the sadness I used to feel–because the judge in Malawi who sentenced them was so vitriolic and hateful in his sentencing. Perhaps reflecting public sentiment, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said that he wanted to protect the public “from people like you”. Human rights advocates around the world have condemned the act; a U.S. State department official said that the United States was “deeply disappointed” with the conviction.
Many countries on the African continent have searing, anti-gay laws. In Uganda, the proposed law that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death is stalled in parliament. In Nigeria, a college student was clubbed to death because he was gay. And in 36 countries in Africa, being gay is not only a social taboo, it is a crime.
Reminds me, of course, of Oscar Wilde’s sentencing to hard labor more than a century ago for the same crime. With Malawi’s legal stance on homosexuality, what are the implications for gay rights–much less human rights–for other nations in the African continent?