Press statement

UNAIDS expresses serious concern over ruling in Malawi

GENEVA, 20 May 2010 – UNAIDS is greatly concerned about the guilty verdict handed down by a magistrate court in Malawi against Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

The two men were arrested in December 2009 by police officials on charges of engaging in "indecent practices between males" and "unnatural offenses." Both men were subsequently detained for nearly five months, despite several applications for bail and concerns about their health. They were each sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment and hard labour. 

UNAIDS considers the criminalization of individuals based on their sexual orientation as a setback for human rights that threatens public health gains in the AIDS response. Criminalizing sexual behaviour drives people who engage in same-sex relations underground and hampers HIV-related programmes aimed at addressing their needs.

More than 80 countries have legislation prohibiting same-sex behaviour. UNAIDS urges all governments to ensure full respect for the human rights of men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgendered people through repealing laws that prohibit sexual acts between consenting adults in private; enforcing laws to protect these groups from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia; and ensuring that crucial health needs are met.

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