The Times Online have reported on the arrest of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjezat:
Since they became the first openly gay couple in Malawi to be engaged, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have been arrested, put in prison and charged with offences that could lead to a 14-year jail sentence.
Between true love and gay martyrdom, however, is the brutal reality of life in a Malawi prison. Yesterday, in their first interview since being jailed, the pair claimed that they had been beaten in prison, and demanded to go to court to prove their innocence.
While Mr Chimbalanga, 20, who dresses as a woman, spoke defiantly of his love for the man he plans to marry, Mr Monjeza, 22, said that he was “drunk” when they met and was considering ending their engagement. The couple, who denied three charges of unnatural practices between males and gross indecency, performed a public engagement ceremony in front of 500 onlookers last weekend. They were arrested two days later.
With gay rights campaigners warning that the case marks a new wave of homophobia in Africa, the pair have been held since then at Chichiri prison in Blantyre, where the warders appear bemused by the level of hysteria surrounding their charges.
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In an interview with The Times at the weekend, Mr Chimbalanga — visibly more at ease than Mr Monjeza, who appeared confused and disorientated — said: “I love my husband and laws should not prohibit love.”
Mr Monjeza said that he was drunk when they first met. But he admitted that he sobered up later. “I love the way he talked, the way he loved me.”
When it was suggested that he sounded apologetic and remorseful, however, he expressed his doubts about the wisdom of their historic confrontation with the conservative southern African state. “Well, I was drunk. I guess I wanted to be famous but I am now regretting. Prison life is no good. I realised we have broken the laws. I am calling this off. I am not crazy. I have another woman I intended to marry but I loved Tiwonge. I guess I should apologise to that other woman.”
Mr Chimbalanga, however, remained defiant. Dressed in a blouse and describing himself as a woman, he said that they became engaged after “my darling, Steven, proposed love to me and we agreed to get married”.
Unlike Mr Monjeza, he refused to accept that he had broken any law. “Which laws? I am a woman, I can do what a woman can do,” he said. “I love Steven for what he is, he doesn’t give me money. In fact, I do everything for him, but love is love.”
But prison is prison. “They beat us up here,” said Mr Chimbalanga. “Why? Why beating us? We have done no wrong. If they say we have broken laws, why not let the courts judge us?”
Reluctant to accept that his relationship was over, he said: “Well, he is the one who proposed to me. I still love him though. Love is between two people, the third one is a spoiler. The police is the spoiler here.”
They are due to appear in court today for a bail application. “I hope they give us bail and let us out of here,” said Mr Monjeza. “It’s terrible here.”
Mr Chimbalanga said: “We are not supposed to be here. You don’t arrest someone because he loves someone.”
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