The Associated Press reports that Malawi’s president has pardoned a same-sex couple who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison. However, President Bingu wa Mutharika’s announcement was far from encouraging for the broader picture of LGBT equality in a region that has fallen woefully behind the rest of the world.
“These boys committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws,” President Mutharika said. “However, as head of state, I hereby pardon them and therefore order their immediate release without any conditions….We don’t condone marriages of this nature. It’s unheard of in Malawi and it’s illegal.”
Malawi had faced international condemnation for the conviction and harsh sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who were arrested in December, a day after celebrating their engagement. After the pardon, activists were searching for a safe house for the couple, fearing they could be attacked upon release.
This horrific treatment of LGBT people in much of Africa must end. While anti-gay hatred is constantly portrayed as an African value, many African leaders are really upholding homophobic colonial traditions. Worse, the tense atmosphere is exacerbated by American “Colonial Christians” who poison Africa with noxious forms of religious views.
While there is much to be done worldwide for LGBT equality, at lease one couple caught a break and can hopefully resume their lives — although they seem to be potentially in harms way. As for Malawi, it was a very wise move by Mutharika. Had this couple remained in prison, it would have put a searing spotlight on this otherwise invisible nation. This would have harmed Malawi’s reputation, undermined its economy and retarded growth.