Madonna "Shocked and Saddened" Gay Men in Malawi Sentenced to Prison

Celebrity News May. 21, 2010 AT 9:24AM
Madonna "Shocked and Saddened" Gay Men in Malawi Sentenced to Prison Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage.com

Madonna decries the ruling handed down Thursday in Blantyre, Malawi that will send a gay couple to prison.

"Today, Malawi took a giant step backward," the singer told UsMagazine.com in a statement. "The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved."

Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 33, and Steven Monjeza, 25, were convicted of unnatural acts and gross indecency and sentenced to 14 years of hard labor in prison.

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Homosexuality is seen as an abomination in the South African country and most gays, lesbians and transgender people do not show public affections. The couple held an engagement party that was later splashed across the front page of a local newspaper. They were arrested two days later without bail.

According to the New York Times, Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa said he was especially offended that the couple celebrated their relationship in public with an engagement party.

"I do not believe Malawi is ready at this point in time to see its sons, or cohabitating, or conducting engagement ceremonies," he said after issuing the ruling. "Malawi is not ready to smile at her daughters marrying each other. Let posterity judge this judgment."

Madonna, 51, has four kids: Lourdes, 13, Rocco, 9, plus David, 5 (adopted from Malawi in 2006) and Mercy, 4 (adopted from Malawi last year). She is the co-founder of the charity, Raising Malawi, and laid the foundation stone for a $15 million-dollar girls' academy in the country last year.

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"I am shocked and saddened by the decision made by the Malawian court, which sentenced two innocent men to prison," she tells Us. "As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation."

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Although the couples lawyer Mauya Msuku will most likely appeal the conviction, human rights activists have called for widespread protests around the world.

"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," Madonna said.

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