- homosexuality - justice - Malawi
'Newly-wed' gay couple to stay in jail
After being arrested last week for holding the country's first public same-sex wedding ceremony, a Malawian male couple was denied bail Monday, as a court gave prosecutors more time to investigate the "indecent practices" the couple is charged with.
AFP - A Malawian gay couple arrested after holding a wedding ceremony last week was denied bail Monday, as a court gave prosecutors six more days to wrap up their investigation into "indecencies" by the men.
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga appeared downcast as they walked handcuffed into the court amid tight police security, to jeers and cheers from hundreds of onlookers.
They were arrested one week ago in Malawi's commercial capital Blantyre for holding the country's first public same-sex wedding ceremony -- an act that landed them with three counts of "indecent practices".
They have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face up to 14 years in prison.
Police prosecutor Dickens Mwambazi urged the court to deny them bail, saying they should remain in custody for their "own safety and security" because their case had attracted widespread condemnation from Malawians.
"Their lives would be endangered if they were released," he said.
Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa said he feared the couple "would tamper with evidence" if they were freed, but warned he would release them if prosecutors failed to wrap up their investigation quickly.
"By January 10, the state should finish gathering information on the accused, or else the court will grant bail with or without any condition," he said.
The couple is represented by several lawyers hired by the Centre for the Development of People, the only known gay rights movement in Malawi.
Their five-month love affair has shocked the conservative nation where homosexuality is banned and where sex topics are still largely taboo.
Monjeza and Chimbalanga had not applied for legal recognition of their relationship, but held a symbolic wedding ceremony to seal their relationship.
Despite the government's laws against homosexuality, authorities do recognise the existence of gays in Malawi and often call on them to come out in order to help fight AIDS in a country where 12 percent of adults have HIV.