NPR logo Malawi Gay Couple Pardoned By Nation's President


Malawi Gay Couple Pardoned By Nation's President

After his nation as internationally condemned for convicting and sentencing a gay couple to a 14-year prison tern, Malawi's president pardoned the men after a visit from UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon.

Malawi's president, Bingu wa Mutharika, suggested that it was an act of compassion for the men, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, to be pardoned.

Reuters reported:

"These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws," President Bingu wa Mutharika said.

"However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions,"he said after a meeting with Ban where the U.N. leader raised the issue of the sentencing.

"I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this," wa Mutharika added.

But wa Mutharika was also acutely aware that as one of Africa's poorest nation's, Malawil is highly dependent on international economic assistance and some of that might be threatened by his nation's anti-gay decision that had scandalized millions across the globe.

With the White House's effort to repeal the U.S. military's "Don't Ask. Don't Tell" policy as a back drop. presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs was quick to issue a statement welcoming the 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.