Malawi gay man now dating a woman, group says

One of two gay men recently imprisoned and pardoned in Malawi has begun a relationship with a woman, according to a group that helped provide legal support to the men.

Steven Monjeza began the relationship in his hometown of Blantyre shortly after his release from prison, Dunker Kamba, administrator at the Center for the Development of People said. He was together with his former partner, Tiwonge Chimbalanga, for only one or two days after their release, he said.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga were sentenced last month to 14 years in prison for gross indecency and unnatural acts, prompting an outcry from human rights and gay rights groups around the world. The president of Malawi pardoned the men after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Authorities had arrested Monjeza and Chimbalanga in December at their home in Blantyre after the couple professed their love in a traditional engagement ceremony. Police discovered the couple when local newspapers reported on the ceremony.

The criminal case against them cast light on prevailing African attitudes toward homosexuality, which is outlawed in more than 30 nations on the continent.

Some in the conservative southern African nation supported the prosecution, and government officials said they were simply upholding the law. Human rights groups and advocates for gays and lesbians argued that the arrests violated Malawi’s constitution, which outlaws discrimination.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga are in their 20s.

While they were awaiting trial, they were subjected to medical examinations intended to find evidence of sodomy, according to Human Rights Watch. They also underwent psychiatric evaluations. All the exams were done without the men’s consent, the group said.

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