Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga Freed

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What great news to wake up to this morning.

Malawai President Bingu wa Mutharika has officially pardoned Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, the gay couple who had been sentenced earlier this month to 14 years of hard labor under sodomy and indecency laws. You may remember that they were originally arrested after holding a public wedding ceremony in December.

President wa Mutharika clearly bowed to mounting pressure. His statement, according to the Daily Telegraph:

"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. I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this."

Update

White House Presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs has just released a statement about today's pardon:

"The White House is pleased to learn of President Bingu wa Mutharika's pardon of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. These individuals were not criminals and their struggle is not unique. We must all recommit ourselves to ending the persecution and criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. We hope that President Mutharika's pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country's history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe."

Comments

  1. neverstops says

    good

    “I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this.” – ugh – had to get one last kick in didn’t he?

  2. Feral says

    Oh happy day!!! I don’t care how or why it happened… Just glad it did. And that they’ll think twice the next time.

  3. Esurnir says

    Honnestly that’s the best news I heard in a long long long time. Pressure works. It’s the first real lgbt victory I heard in months and the first in this region of te world. I’m definitely too happy about this, I’m going Togo read lifesitenews and how much ENDA is progressing that way I’ll be outraged again, maybe a statement from FRC if that’s not enough.

  4. princely54 says

    That’s amazing and wonderful. But, if I were either of these guys, I would be looking to get out of the country. There won’t be much condemnation should some moron or group of idiots take it upon themselves to dish out some ‘justice’ and hurt or kill these two. Not wishing them ill, but I know that part of the world and it’s very different.

  5. says

    Yes, very good news, even if the humanitarian action is couched in that inhumane statement. I hope for their safety and freedom from the homophobia that got them arrested to begin with. They will need protection.

  6. says

    Is anyone working on getting them out of there? If so, I’d be happy to donate to the cause. I would love to also put pressure on Obama, and Hillary Clinton at the state dept to grant them asylum here in the US. This is a great example for them to show us they’re willing to take actions that back up their words. Both Clinton and Obama strongly denounced their convictions, let’s see if they’re willing to back that up by offering these two sanctuary.

  7. borisg says

    first news story that has actually brought tears of joy to my eyes in recent memory. now hightail it out of that country. can’t we make them grand marshalls of sf’s gay pride parade or something and send them airline tickets out?

  8. Q says

    Wonderful, wonderful news! Now somebody get them the hell outta there. The media coverage has painted a bullseye on their backs!

  9. says

    IF they want to leave Malawi they need to be offered visas, then they can come and claim asylum. That’s how it works.

    So IF it is learned that they really are unsafe AND they want to leave then do lobby for them to be granted visas (assuming they might want to come to the US). Another thing would be for reception to be organised and ongoing support for them to have a shot at a decent life somewhere else.

  10. Filberto says

    A big public Thank You to all of those spoke up against this outrage: Secretary Clinton, the White House, U.N. Secretary Ban, Madonna, and everyone else in the blogosphere.

  11. Charles says

    Incredible and unexpected news!!

    Now someone needs to get them out of this country asap, before some mob takes it upon themselves to carry out the sentence…

  12. Sargon Bighorn says

    “a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws”. The religion and laws are most assuredly from Colonial rule and it’s a double standard when Black African nations use Colonial Laws and Religion to persecute their own citizens while then turning around and crying big tears about how “Colonial Rule” has destroyed them as a culture and nation. In fact Black African Culture rarely had criminal taboos against homosexual love. This is good news for these two men.

  13. TampaZeke says

    WONDERFUL NEWS!

    Maybe they will be able to emigrate to a more gay friendly country that will grant them asylum.

    They could certainly make the case that they were, and will continue to be, the victims of persecution based on their sexual orientation/gender expression.

  14. DR says

    I hope they get the support they need to get out of this country. I hope all the international groups decrying this now stand up and help these men who have been pardoned by their President.

  15. FunMe says

    I just cried tears of joy and thanksgiving.

    This is beautiful!

    I pray those 2 wonderful human beings are able to find a safe place for them to live out of that country.

  16. says

    I’m on board with the sentiments stating they need to get the hell out of dodge! Seriously, the US, UK, Canada or any other country that believes in basic human rights needs to step up to the plate A.S.A.P.

    If anything, Madge should pony up the money and fly them out of there until they can be granted asylum. It’s not like she can’t afford it and could be the one GREAT thing she does with her fortune.

    If Madonna calls, PICK UP THE PHONE!

  17. says

    As soon as they’re released, they’d better be about hauling ass out of that hateful country as soon as possible, or their lives won’t be worth a plugged nickel. Asylum in a European country would be best for them, I think.

  18. SteveO says

    Great! They should be allowed to have a happy life together. From one Gay Male to others; I’m proud of their courage!

  19. Mike C. says

    I cried when I read this this morning. I’ve spent the last week avoiding the story because it was too sad for me to think about.

    Thanks to Ban Ki-moon for making this happen, he made this happen

  20. Lexxvs says

    I’m glad for them. BUT by the president words you can clearly understand that this mean that gays will still be prosecuted and there is no intention of changing the law, and it’s gonna be difficult for others to incite international attention. So this is nothing but the beginning of a long fight, if anything.

  21. Kian says

    Great news! Maybe Tiwonge can go back to her life as a woman now that she has been freed from jail. Somehow I doubt that she will be able to now that everyone thinks she is a gay man.

  22. TANK says

    You’re so raven, kian. I mean radical… It’s offensive, to you, to be mistaken for gay when you’re transgender, just as it’s offensive to be mistaken for transgender when you’re gay…because sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender identity. Agreed.

    I’m still waiting for all of those radicals to descend and condemn this as another example of colonialism, exporting our values to another country…where are those crazy people? Oh, that’s right, consistency doesn’t matter to them.

  23. Pinky says

    I hear HRC is going to throw a Cocktails for Malawi party to celebrate this good news. Expect lots of money to be raised from concerned professional white people and their social climbing younger dates. Fun!

  24. says

    The best news of the day! I’m so happy beyond words right now. Hopefully they’ll find a place where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace and happiness.

  25. MJrules says

    Now, that old whore Madonna could adopt them. She has no talent–can’t dance, can’t sing, can’t act, so she has to steal two babies from their loving families. I hope she kills herself and leaves the pop world to the KING OF POP, Michael Jackson

  26. Ty says

    The story of these two men has worried me for the past several weeks. Their lives have been turned into a spectacle and their love has been demonized by their society. I’ve been really pissed off about the hate and intolerance that would lead to the imprisonment of these guys. I’m relieved to hear they’ve been freed, but I’m still concerned for their safety. Just because they’re out of jail doesn’t mean they’re safe. More needs to be done.

  27. dc20008 says

    Praise Allah! This is spectacular. I fear for them in that country but it is fantastic that they are free!!!!!!!!!!

  28. says

    I would bet that President Bingu wa Mutharika is more afraid of losing any amount of foreign aid Malawai gets than keeping both Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in prison.

    Wasn’t it Russia that publicly denounced the actions and against their aid policy?
    So I’m not impressed with the pardon… ecstatically happy yes, impressed, no.

    And wasn’t it Tiwonge who made comment in prison that if freed he wants to leave Malawai? I agree that Malawai might be to toxic for them anymore.

    And there are gay-friendly areas in Africa. It’s not like they would have to leave their beloved Africa and be so far from family and friends.

    I just wish them all the best and not become ‘abandoned’ now that all the hype will die down.

  29. Justin Normand says

    GET THEM OUT OF THERE. NOW.

    Anyone ever see “To Kill A Mockingbird”? The guy was found not guilty, but bigots murdered him anyway. I’ll be happy to donate to help these guys get out – alive – and start over elsewhere.

  30. FFFFFFFF says

    I read this blog 3 times to see if maybe, possibly, I missed something about Tiwonge’s gender. But I didn’t find anything, but you guys did mention them being a “gay couple”! Great. I love how Robert Gibbs can mention gender identity but a gay blog can’t.

    Yay trans erasure!

    Tiwonge identifies as a female. Physical appearance aside, please respect HER identity.

  31. Blain Rushing says

    A phrase I haven’t muttered in years, but somehow seems appropriate…… THANK GOD! My hearts and all the good vibes I can muster go out to these two. May we all find the strength to be able to stand up for ourselves in the face of such adversity. They are an inspiration the world over.

  32. Nate G says

    It is truly a great thing that they have been relseased, sadly I expect the next time we hear of them they will have been beaten to death. I wish them all the luck in the world.

  33. yaaah69 says

    RUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNN!!!! Pressure helped them , but what happens to them when they are no longer front page. Someone needs to keep an eye on them or at least get them to a country where they can live.

  34. Dawnell_do says

    I’m happy that their freed but something like this should never have happened in the first place.

  35. frank says

    frankly speaking, bingu wa mutharika was under pressure. Had it been i was the president, i would have done the same thing. You malawi it time for you to wake up!!! you have to learn how to sustain yourself. Independence means you can do without the help of donors unless otherwise. The qeustion is: “where is that indepence we are caliming that we have?” i feel sorry for you malawi. Anyway, lets just leave it in the hands of the Lord, if it is the will of God, He is the one who cam control it.No Gays not funds!!!! hahahahahaha!!!!!! it funny!!!!!