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Malawi gives gay couple 14 years in jail; public cheers

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Thursday's conviction only highlights Malawi's discrimination toward homosexuals. Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa sentenced Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a 20-year-old hotel janitor, and his unemployed partner Steven Monjeza, 26, to the maximum 14 years imprisonment with hard labor, following their conviction Tuesday for “gross indecency” and “unnatural acts” under a British-colonial era law. They were arrested Dec. 26.

“I find that the state has established its case beyond reasonable doubt," Magistrate Usiwa said Thursday, adding that the acts were "against the order of nature." Both men were forced to undergo an involuntary anal examination and psychiatric evaluation.

Defense lawyers have not indicated if they will appeal.

The United States and Britain immediately condemned the sentencing.

"We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as a step backward in the protection of human rights in Malawi," the US Embassy said in a statement today.

A joint statement from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was "deeply dismayed by the conviction." Despite progress on human rights in recent years, today's sentencing "runs counter to a positive trend," the statement reads.

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