One half of Malawi gay couple 'moves in with a woman'

Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R) and Steven Monjeza after their release, at a news conference in Lilongwe on 2 June 2010 The pair were convicted under a law dating back to British colonial rule

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A gay couple who were jailed in Malawi have split after one of them moved in with a woman, according to reports.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced to 14 years' hard labour in May, then freed following international condemnation.

But Monjeza told Malawi's Nation newspaper that he had been coerced into the gay relationship, and was now with a woman named Dorothy Gulo.

When freed last month, they were taken separately to their home villages.

'Star-crossed lovers'

The pair were warned they faced re-arrest if they continued their relationship.

Malawi map

Ms Gulo was also interviewed by the newspaper and said: "I'd heard about men getting involved in a sexual relationship. I was curious so I accepted him."

Asked about Monjeza's former partner, she told the Nation: "I'm scared he is going to beat me up."

Human rights advocate Peter Tatchell, who campaigned for Chimbalanga and Monjeza's release, said anti-gay pressure had split the "star-crossed lovers".

"It is a tragedy that homophobic threats and abuse have forced this couple apart," he said. "They were deeply in love. The pressure has got to Steven."

There was condemnation from around the world for Malawi's anti-homosexuality laws after the pair were jailed for "gross indecency and unnatural acts".

Under pressure from donor countries, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika granted them a pardon, citing humanitarian grounds.

His announcement followed a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who praised the decision as courageous.

However, President Mutharika was recently reported as saying Mr Chimbalanga, 20, and 26-year-old Mr Monjeza's acts were disgusting.

The pair had been held in custody since their arrest in December last year, a day after they held a traditional engagement ceremony.

They were convicted of engaging in gay sex under a law dating back to colonial rule by Britain.

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