Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two gay weddings on two continents, but only one happy ending

"In Argentina, Jose Maria Di Bello and Alex Freyre (pictured) made history as the first same-sex couple to marry in Latin America. Thousands of miles away, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza became the first gay men to tie the knot in Malawi," reports The UK Guardian. The different reactions to the two ceremonies, however, suggested that while gay rights in Latin America are advancing, in Africa they are going into reverse. Although Di Bello and Freyre had to rely on subterfuge, a progressive provincial governor and a 1,500-mile trip to the continent's southern tip, their union was greeted as a breakthrough. Chimbalanga and Monjeza, however, were swiftly arrested and charged with gross public indecency. Campaigners warned that the move indicated a conservative backlash against homosexuality across Africa.

Chimbalanga and Monjeza took part in a symbolic, traditional ceremony on Saturday. They were watched by hundreds of onlookers in the conservative southern African state, where homosexuality is illegal and carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. "We met at church where we both pray and we have been together for the last five months," Monjeza told Malawi's Nation newspaper.

The two men are due to appear in court tomorrow. Dave Chingwalu, a police spokesman, told the Reuters news agency they were likely to face further charges and would be held in separate cells.

Marlow Valentine, community engagement and empowerment manager of the Triangle Project in South Africa, said: "We are disgusted and outraged that this couple has been arrested and we call for their release. It is an infringement of their human rights." He said a hardening of attitudes towards gay rights across Africa was being encouraged by US-based Christian evangelical groups. READ MORE

More In-Depth Coverage

Alejandro Freyre and Jose Maria Di Bello tie the knot in a civil ceremony
  • Argentine Gay Couple Becomes First in Region to Marry (BBC)
  • First Gay Marriage Performed in Argentina (New York Times)
  • Gay Couple First To Marry In Latin America (SkyNews)
  • Gay Marriage in Argentina is 1st in Latin America (The Houston Chronicle)
  • Latin America Now Officially More Progressive on Gay Marriage than Florida (MiamiNewTimes)

  • Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza held a traditional engagement ceremony over the weekend - believed to be the first gay couple in Malawi to do so.
  • Malawi Gay Couple to Face Court After Engagement (BBC)
  • Malawi Police Arrest 2 Men for Engagement Ceremony (New York Times)
  • First Gay Wedding Couple Arrested (Independent Online)
  • Men Wed in Malawi's First Gay Ceremony, Risk Arrest (Reuters)