Malawi Leader Pardons Gay Couple

Tiwonge Chimbalanga (right) and Steven Monjeza were pardoned by Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika after having been sentenced to a maximum 14 years in prison for unnatural acts and gross indecency under Malawi's anti-gay legislation. (Photo: GLAAD)

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has pardoned a homosexual couple who two weeks earlier were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor for "unnatural acts and gross indecency."

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested last December after holding an engagement service together.

In May, the couple was found guilty of violating Malawi's anti-gay laws and were given the maximum penalty of 14 years of hard labor – a sentence that sparked outrage from the international community.

On Saturday, Monjeza and Chimbalanga were pardoned and released without conditions shortly after a meeting between Mutharika and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who praised the Malawi leader's courage.

Ban also urged Mutharika to amend the country's "outdated" laws on homosexuality, which were reportedly drafted during colonial times.

The U.N.'s remarks were echoed by the White House, who urged Malawi to end "the persecution and criminalisation of sexual orientation and gender identity."

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