By Richard Ammon
(Note: Tiwonge and Steven were released from jail in May 29, 2010 by Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika; see story)
As if the homophobic proposals (to kill gays) in the Ugandan legislature weren’t bad enough–at least they are only proposals at this time–now comes the incredible action taken by a judicial court in Malawi to imprison at hard labor two gay male lovers, Tiwonge and Steven (photo), who were bold and foolish enough to attempt a marriage to one another.
After being in a grubby jail since last December, they were finally put on trial and of course were convicted of illegal and immoral un-African behavior in early May 2010.
This speaks to the worst in human nature and shames the justice Malawian system–a system packed with ignorance about sexuality and about love between people. I find such intellectual darkness frightening because it’s the same kind of blindness that has caused untold millions of deaths in Africa from tribal hatred, political warfare and religious carnage. Death is the voice of hate. In this case hate turned against a sexual minority in the form of two innocent boyfriends.
It is irrational thinking beyond anything I have personally known, although I am very aware of similar fanatical hostility toward LGBT people at various Gay Pride events, especially in Eastern Europe where skinheads attack peaceful gay marchers with verbal abuse, stones and grenades.
Homophobia is right up there with tribal rivalry as among the last ‘social frontiers’ of uncivilized action yet to be overcome. The cruelty that emerges from these forms of prejudice confounds all reason and progress toward a just and humane world.
How a sitting judge, supposedly versed in the objectivity of civil laws, can be so barbaric and swayed by vulgar popular opinion and emotion to render his blatantly cruel sentence of 14 years against Tiwonge and Steven; this is beyond the pale. Their offense harmed no one; it was a technical violation of a Malawi (highly homophobic) law deserving perhaps of a modest fine to assert the rule of law, unjust as it may be..
Bribery is a dishonest and dirty way to do business or politics but in this case I would gladly shuffle money under the table to secure their release. Seeing honest people rot in jail for dishonest reasons is un-African. Hatred is un-African value. This judge has violated all standards of civilized behavior in his role as ‘justice’ provider. Malawi deserves better. Tiwonge and Steven deserve better. They deserve freedom and each other’s love.