World News

Malawi gay man finds woman and couple splits - report

LILONGWE (Reuters) - A gay Malawian couple whose 14-year prison sentence for their love affair led to international condemnation has split over a girl, a newspaper report said on Tuesday.

Steven Monjeza (L) and Tiwonge Chimbalanga appear before a magistrate court in Blantyre January 4, 2010. REUTERS/Eldson Chagara

Malawi’s leader pardoned the two men in late May on humanitarian grounds after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who applauded the move and urged the country to amend “outdated” laws on homosexuality.

Steven Monjeza, 26, told The Nation, a major local daily, he had left his partner, 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga, because he had been coerced into the gay relationship and found a better match with a 24-year-old woman named Dorothy.

“I am looking forward to a future with him. I don’t care what people say. But I am yet to tell my parents,” she told the paper.

Neither of the two men were immediately available for comment.

Monjeza and Chimbalanga were arrested after celebrating their engagement in a traditional ceremony in late December.

They were tried and found guilty in May of sodomy and indecency. The trial became a test case for gay rights in the southern African country.

Activists and the international community welcomed their pardon, with the White House urging an end to “the persecution and criminalisation of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Homosexuality in Africa, which is illegal in most of the continent’s 53 countries, has become a contentious issue in recent months after a Ugandan lawmaker proposed a bill including the death penalty for some acts, police raided a gay wedding in Kenya and the Malawian couple were arrested.

Major donors to aid-dependent Malawi had condemned the jail sentence as an abuse of human rights and warned it could hurt support for Malawi’s economy.

Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Jon Herskovitz