Trans woman jailed under Malawi’s anti-gay laws speaks out

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who became known internationally in 2009 for being jailed for marrying her partner, has spoken out on Malawi

Trans woman jailed under Malawi’s anti-gay laws speaks out
09 December 2012 Print This Article

A transgender woman who was jailed for 14 years under Malawi’s anti-gay laws has spoken out about her marriage ceremony that triggered her arrest.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 24, was freed and granted asylum in South Africa two years ago but waited to speak to the press for fear of inciting further backlash.

Known as ‘Aunt Tiwo’, Chimbalanga and her openly gay partner Steven Monjeza drew criticism to the deeply conservative Malawi after the couple were arrested for holding a traditional engagement ceremony in late 2009.

The pair was sentenced to 14 years with hard labor as a ‘horrendous example’ in 2010.

The couple were pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika, who had described the couple as ‘insane’ and the ceremony ‘satanic’, 11 days after extreme international criticism.

‘I don’t have any regrets, I didn’t do anything wrong,’ Chimbalanga, who was tried as a gay man despite identifying as a transgender woman, told Associated Foreign Press.

She added: ‘I had mixed feelings because on the one hand I felt it was a wonderful thing for me to do a normal, natural thing like getting married, whilst on the other hand it was very painful.

‘I was beaten in prison. During the trial the security guards ill-treated me. I was verbally abused and suffered all sorts of inhumane treatments, I have scars from the beatings.

‘Yet I felt good that I was able to do what I wanted to do.’

After their release, the couple broke up and Chimbalanga spent months hiding in a safe house before being granted refugee status in South Africa, which is the only country in Africa that allows same-sex marriage.

‘The thing that I wish for in Malawi is that all gays, lesbians and transgenders must come out and have their rights like everybody else. It seems that in Malawi there are human rights for the rich and another set for the poor,’ Chimbalanga said.

‘I want everyone to have their human rights and freedom to choose what they want to be and the only way to achieve that is by coming out and claiming their rights.’

On 5 November, gay people had a brief taste of freedom when the government announced they would suspend their anti-homosexuality law.

Three days later, church criticism demanded the law remain in place until parliament voted on a new law. However, police have been told not to arrest anyone engaged in homosexual activity.

Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said: ‘If we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government.

‘It is better to let one criminal get away with it rather than throw a lot of innocent people in jail.’

HAVE YOUR SAY

OTHER POSTS

No thumbnail available

Lycra alert: the essential sport events to travel to in 2015

GSN takes a look at some of the major sporting competitions around the world – it’s time to get into training!
No thumbnail available

Republican senator's gay son 'especially proud' of his dad's support of gay marriage

Rob Portman changed his stance after son came out to him
No thumbnail available

Gay cowboys and cowgirls ride into Florida for weekend rodeo

The Sunshine Stampede sees men and women from all across North America come together for a weekend of bull riding, barrel racing and over $5000 in prizes
No thumbnail available

Michele Bachmann's sister speaks out about the politician's anti-gay views

Rep. Michele Bachmann's half sister talks about what it means to have a famous anti-LGBT family member
No thumbnail available

African Seventh Day Adventist leader opposes Uganda anti-gay bill

The leader of the Seventh Day Adventists in East and Central Africa has denied a report in Uganda’s state owned media that he supports the country’s controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill – saying journalists put words in his mouth
No thumbnail available

Professor forced out of job at Christian college after coming out as trans

Trans theology professor 'asked to leave' after working at the university for 15 years
No thumbnail available

HomoLAB 62

We get the low down on the new Lesbian scene in London with Fairy Cake of The Most Cake website. That sentence doesn't make sense until you hear the podcast.
No thumbnail available

Rush Limbaugh complains Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is being 'bullied' into vetoing anti-gay bill

'She’s being bullied by the homosexual lobby in Arizona and elsewhere'
No thumbnail available

Anti-gay slurs ruled hate speech in Mexico

The Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that two popular anti-gay slurs are hate speech and are not protected under freedom of speech in the country’s constitution
No thumbnail available

Rick Santorum says it would be 'suicidal' for Republicans to embrace gay marriage

'The Republican party’s not going to change on this issue'