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Sixty-five British MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 564), which condemns Malawi's arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who are accused of a homosexual relationship.
The two men love each other and have harmed no one. But they could be jailed for up to 14 years.
The verdict in their trial is expected next Monday, 22 March.
Amnesty International has adopted Steven and Tiwonge as Prisoners of Conscience:
The EDM, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, urges the release of the two men, the dropping of all charges and the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Malawi.
A copy of the EDM and a link to the signatures follows below.
See background to the Malawi arrests and trial here:
"Many letters of protest have been sent to the Malawian High Commissioner in London, Dr. Francis Moto, urging that Tiwonge and Steven be released and all charges dropped, on the grounds that they have harmed no one," said Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay human rights group OutRage!
"The men's prosecution and the ban on homosexuality violate the equality and non-discrimination provisions of the Constitution of Malawi and of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which Malawi has signed and pledged to uphold."
See details below.
Mr Tatchell has been working with Malawian friends to support the men on trial and to oppose their prosecution. He helped organise the EDM in the British Parliament.
In the 1970s and 80s, Mr Tatchell campaigned for the release of political prisoners in Malawi during the dictatorship of Dr Hastings Banda and for improved wages and conditions for Malawian workers on British-owned farms and estates in the Mulanje region.
"The EDM has been communicated to the Malawian High Commissioner in London. It will hopefully add to pressure for the acquittal of Steven and Tiwonge and for the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality by the Government of Malawi," Mr Tatchell added.
"We hope this parliamentary motion will send a strong signal from the House of Commons to the Malawian government that the criminalisation of consenting same-sex relations is a violation of human rights. Malawi's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens have a right to privacy, equality, respect and dignity, under the country's constitution and under international humanitarian law.
"Malawi is a sovereign nation and we respect its independence. But we hope that its government will recognise that this trial and the criminalisation of homosexuality are contrary to the human rights principles that Malawi has embraced since its transition from dictatorship to democracy.
"We appeal to the kindness and generosity of the Malawian people and government: please show mercy to Steven and Tiwonge and do not persecute your fellow Malawian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
"OutRage! supports the many Malawian people who oppose homophobia and the prosecution of these two men. It is encouraging to hear some people in Malawi say: live and let live.
"Tiwonge and Steven have harmed no one. They should not be on trial," concluded Mr Tatchell.
EDM 564 - Human Rights in Malawi
This House notes the same-sex engagement ceremony in late December 2009 of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga; calls upon the President of Malawi to ensure that they are released from jail and that all charges against them for homosexual relations are dropped; calls upon the Government of Malawi to decriminalise homosexuality in accordance with the equality and non-discrimination clauses of the Malawian constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and to ensure the human rights of all its citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
See the EDM and signatories on the UK Parliament website:
Constitution of Malawi - Article 20:
Discrimination of persons in any form is prohibited and all persons are...guaranteed equal and effective protection against discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, nationality, ethnic or social origin, disability, property, birth or other status.
"Or other status" means on other grounds, which includes sexual orientation.
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights - Articles 2, 3 and 4:
Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.
1. Every individual shall be equal before the law. 2. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.
Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.
Confirmation of Malawi's signature, ratification and accession
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