Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said today that he is deeply troubled by the harsh prison sentence given a gay couple in Malawi that was accused of violating the “order of nature” and convicted of sodomy. They have remained in jail since their arrest on December 28.

“The fourteen-year sentence received by Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza is draconian and exceptionally cruel for people who have harmed no one,” Berman said.

He emphasized that the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity wherever it happens is unacceptable. Of fifty-four countries in sub-Saharan Africa, thirty-two have laws against homosexuality.

“It is important that supporters of human rights in Africa and the rest of the world understand that we are engaged in a common struggle against bigotry and discrimination,” Berman continued. “President Bingu wa Mutharika has the power to commute this sentence and free Chimbalanga and Monjeza from prison, and I urge him to do so without delay.”