Artist News

Madonna calls Malawi anti-gay court ruling “backward”

By | Published on Tuesday 25 May 2010

Madonna has called on the people of Malawi to back an appeal against a court ruling made in the country last week that has seen two gay men jailed for fourteen years because of their sexuality. Homosexuality is still illegal in the country. Madonna, who has a high profile in Malawi after funding various charitable initiatives there and adopting two young children from the country, called the ruling against the gay couple “backward”. Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga face “hard labour” as part of their prison sentence.

In a statement to Access Hollywood, Madonna says: “I am shocked and saddened by the decision made today by the Malawian court, which sentenced two innocent men to prison. As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, colour, religion, or sexual orientation. Today, Malawi took a giant step backward. The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved. I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi – and around the world – to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all”.

Although homosexuality is generally considered unlawful in Malawi, the laws used are ambiguous and the issue is rarely discussed directly. Meanwhile the country’s constitution says “discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited”, which arguably makes the enforcement of anti-gay rulings unconstitutional, although ‘sexuality’ is not specifically mentioned in the constitution’s equal opps clause. Chimbalanga and Monjeza were arrested last December after holding an ‘engagement party’ and were denied bail.

Their sentencing last week has been criticised by gay rights groups around the world, and Madonna’s vocal criticism – given her ties with Malawi – is likely to provide considerable momentum to the campaign to have the ruling overturned.