“Same-sex” Malawi couple splits

After being freed from prison for attempting marriage, they call it quits. Also: Why they aren't actually "gay"

Topics: Gay Marriage, Broadsheet, Love and Sex,

"Same-sex" Malawi couple splitsSteven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga appear before a magistrate court in Malawi in January.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, reportedly the first “gay” couple to attempt marriage in Malawi, were recently released from jail after six months of imprisonment. Just a week later, though, Monjeza has found a new partner — and her name is Dorothy.

There were signs of the split during the trial: ”I have had enough,” he said. “I was forced into the whole drama and I regret the whole episode. I want to live a normal life … not a life where I would be watched by everyone, booed and teased.” Gay rights campaigners blame the couple’s breakup on fears of violent retribution. Monjeza’s uncle was reportedly determined to prevent them from getting back together after being released. Chimbalanga was warned not to set foot in the village or they would “deal with him.” Queerty writes that Monjeza’s sudden conversion hints at societal pressure and quotes him as saying that he didn’t want to be associated with “gay trash.”

But can Monjeza even be considered a gay man? Major newspapers certainly think so, and many gay blogs have claimed him for their cause. But back at home, Chimbalanga, who has long hair and wears dresses and head wraps, was considered a woman. In an article headlined, “Gay couple convicted in Malawi,” the New York Times reported that Chimbalanga constantly referred “to himself as ‘Auntie Tiwo’ and insisted that he was a woman.” The reluctance to call Tiwonge a woman, even if she explicitly identified herself as such, reflects the “typical invisibility of the transgender community, in a culture that’s uncomfortable with transgenderism,” Nancy Nangeroni, chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, told Bay Windows. ”It’s either we’re being sensationalized or we’re being ignored, and in this case we’re being ignored.” 

Blogger Autumn Sandeen argues that there’s a reason gay rights, rather than transgender rights, were championed in this case: “I believe we can safely say that from past coverage by the LGBT press and LGBT blogosphere that this story would not have gained as much traction in LGBT media if this were considered a transgender or intersex story.” Ultimately, of course, what mattered was how the pair was viewed by Malawi authorities, and that was unambiguously as a gay couple. All of the international pressure brought to bear on this case might have freed them from jail, but it did not bring actual, lasting rights — be they for gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans people.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>