White House, HRC applaud Malawi pardon
WASHINGTON — The White House and Human Rights Campaign welcomed the recent pardon of two gay Malawi men who were sentenced to 14 years in prison because of their sexual orientation.
In separate statements released May 29, both camps noted that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chumbalanga are not criminals. Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika issued the pardons.
“It is reprehensible to imprison anyone for who they are or who they love,” said Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president. “This is welcomed news that we hope will reverberate around the world in places — including our own country — where LGBT people are targeted for harassment and discrimination.”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that “we must all recommit ourselves to ending the persecution and criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
“We hope that President Mutharika’s pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country’s history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe.”
Malawi has faced international condemnation for the conviction and harsh sentencing. The Associated Press reported that Mutharika granted the pardon based on “humanitarian grounds only,” and that homosexuality remains illegal in the southeastern African nation.
Strict policing, no arrests at Moscow gay parades
MOSCOW — Two Gay Pride parades were held without arrests in Moscow on May 29, the first time Russian authorities have not intervened since the inaugural attempt to hold the event in the capital in 2006.
The Associated Press reported that an activists’ spokesman said that the absence of harassment, beatings and detentions was due to their “military planning” rather than any kind of warming toward non-traditional orientation among officials.
Moscow riot police typically disperse such gatherings with force, emboldened by declarations from city Mayor Yury Luzhkov that have equated LGBT people with the devil. Activists also blame Russia’s resurgent Orthodox Church, which publicly and sternly denounces gay culture, for fomenting homophobia.
About 25 activists held a short demonstration on The Arbat, a pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes that is one of Moscow’s main tourist draws.
They marched for about 10 minutes, holding banners and shouting slogans such as “No discrimination on the grounds of orientation.” Some observers waved and laughed, and there were no signs of hostility.
Police did not try to disperse the march, but when the demonstrators saw a line of uniformed officers blocking the street ahead of them, they scattered.
A few hours later in northwestern Moscow a smaller, international group including British activist Peter Tatchell unveiled a long rainbow flag and chanted “Russia without homophobes!” and “Equal rights, no compromise!”
Zimbabwe court frees 2 gay group employees
HARARE, Zimbabwe — A Zimbabwe court last week freed two employees of a gay organization after six days in jail on allegations of possessing indecent material and displaying a placard seen as insulting to President Robert Mugabe, an outspoken critic of homosexuality.
The Associated Press reported that Gays & Lesbians of Zimbabwe said May 27 that the two employees were assaulted by police while in custody.
Defense attorney David Hofisi said the two were also made to bend their knees into a sitting position with their arms outstretched for long periods and were struck with bottles when they weakened and fell.
According to the Associated Press, Magistrate Munamate Mutevedzi released the two on bail of $200 each until a trial set for June 10, where they will face penalties of imprisonment or a fine. Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe and most African countries.