Call for Zuma to lobby to free Malawi gays

26 May 2010 - 17:51 By Sapa

The Anglican church in southern Africa called on President Jacob Zuma and the South African government to lobby for the immediate release of two Malawian men sentenced to 14 years in prison for their homosexual relationship.

"We urge them to press for the swift release of these two individuals, who have committed no act of violence or harm against anyone; for the quashing of the sentence against them; and for the repeal of this repressive legislation," the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa said.

"As we have previously stated, though there is a breadth of theological views among us on matters of human sexuality, we are united in opposing the criminalisation of homosexual people.

"We see the sentence that has been handed down to these two individuals as a gross violation of human rights and we therefore strongly condemn such sentences and behaviour towards other human beings. "

Stephen Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced to 14 years' hard labour last week for their relationship which a court branded "unnatural acts and gross indecency".

They were arrested in December as they held a party to celebrate their engagement.

The church also expressed concern at the "violent language" used against the gay community across sub-Saharan Africa, and at the increased legal action being taken against gay individuals, communities and organisations.

"Even in South Africa we are aware of instances of violence against the gay and lesbian community. We therefore appeal to law-makers everywhere to defend the rights of these minorities." It was immoral to permit or support oppression of, or discrimination against, people on the grounds of their sexual orientation, the church said.

A presidency spokesman was not immediately available to say whether Zuma would consider the request.

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