Trans woman jailed under Malawi’s anti-gay laws speaks out

On Dec 9, 2012 Gay Star News reported: Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who became known internationally in 2009 for being jailed for marrying her partner, has spoken out on Malawi

A transgender woman who was jailed for 14 years under Malawi’s anti-gay laws has spoken out about her marriage ceremony that triggered her arrest.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 24, was freed and granted asylum in South Africa two years ago but waited to speak to the press for fear of inciting further backlash.

Known as ‘Aunt Tiwo’, Chimbalanga and her openly gay partner Steven Monjeza drew criticism to the deeply conservative Malawi after the couple were arrested for holding a traditional engagement ceremony in late 2009.

The pair was sentenced to 14 years with hard labor as a ‘horrendous example’ in 2010.

The couple were pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika, who had described the couple as ‘insane’ and the ceremony ‘satanic’, 11 days after extreme international criticism.

‘I don’t have any regrets, I didn’t do anything wrong,’ Chimbalanga, who was tried as a gay man despite identifying as a transgender woman, told Associated Foreign Press.

She added: ‘I had mixed feelings because on the one hand I felt it was a wonderful thing for me to do a normal, natural thing like getting married, whilst on the other hand it was very painful.

‘I was beaten in prison. During the trial the security guards ill-treated me. I was verbally abused and suffered all sorts of inhumane treatments, I have scars from the beatings.

‘Yet I felt good that I was able to do what I wanted to do.’

After their release, the couple broke up and Chimbalanga spent months hiding in a safe house before being granted refugee status in South Africa, which is the only country in Africa that allows same-sex marriage.  Continued