The international community is swiftly responding to the outrageous 14 year sentence imposed upon Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, the gay Malawi couple convicted of "gross indecency and unnatural acts." Their crime? Holding a public engagement ceremony in December.
Madonna, who has adopted two children from Malawi and is building a school in the southern Africa nation, has finally addressed this human rights fiasco. The statement:
"I am shocked and saddened by the decision made today by the Malawian court, which sentenced two innocent men to prison. As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. Today, Malawi took a giant step backward. The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved. I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi—and around the world—to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all."
The White House has also strongly denounced the conviction and sentencing. The statement by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
"The United States strongly condemns the conviction and harsh sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi. The criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity is unconscionable, and this case mars the human rights record of Malawi. We urge Malawi and all countries to stop using sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for arrest, detention, or execution."
On Tuesday, the State Department criticized the human rights travesty. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley made an even stronger condemnation today. "The United States is appalled by today's sentencing," Crowley told reporters. "We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as a step backward.
No word yet if the conviction have any bearing on the State Department's $115 million annual foreign aid budget to Malawi.