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Gay couple convicted in Malawi could face 14 years in jail

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The photograph says it all. Two young men handcuffed in the back of a pickup truck, surrounded by smiling young men, who are visibly taunting them.

The trial of two openly gay Malawian men – convicted today of “gross indecency” and “unnatural acts” under a British-colonial era law – brought negative international attention to the small impoverished southern African country, until now, better known for being the birthplace of Madonna’s two most-recently adopted children.

The conviction of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga shows a growing divide between human rights groups that fight for more tolerance of homosexuals and conservative Christian churches that combine with traditional values to leave little room for gays.

Like Ugandan Christians who have pushed through an anti-gay bill that originally would have executed homosexuals accused of sex with a minor, and like Kenyan Christian churches that seek to derail a new Constitution because of its supposed encouragement of abortion, Malawian society continues to ban homosexuality on legal, moral, and cultural grounds.

Fourteen years in prison?

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