Malawi gay couple split

A gay couple in Malawi, who were spared a 14-year jail sentence after staging an illegal same-sex wedding, has split up - and one of them is seeing a woman.

Steven Monjeza left Tiwonge Chimbalanga for a woman a week after the couple were freed from jail in Malawi, the Guardian reported.

Malawi faced international condemnation when the men were convicted on charges of unnatural acts and gross indecency last month, following their symbolic wedding in December.

They received a pardon from President Bingu wa Mutharika, who said it was on "humanitarian grounds only", but stressed that homosexuality remained illegal in the conservative southern African country.

But Monjeza, who faced family hostility towards his relationship with Chimbalanga, said he no longer wanted to be associated with homosexuality, the the Guardian reported.

"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."

Monjeza, 26, has begun a relationship with Dorothy Gulo, a 24-year-old woman.

Chimbalanga, 20, said Monjeza had found a female lover "to hurt" him.

"But I am not worried. You cannot force love, and nobody forced him when we did our symbolic wedding in December."

He insisted that he did not resent Monjeza's decision.

"I will also marry because there are lots of good men around. I will remain a gay," he told the Guardian.

Their separation was called as a "tragedy" by one campaigner, who blamed it on homophobic threats and abuse, the Guardian reported.

Peter Tatchell, from the gay rights group Outrage!, said: "It is a tragedy that homophobic threats and abuse have forced this couple apart. They were deeply in love. The pressure has got to Steven. Very understandably, he wants a quiet, safe life. This would not be possible if he remained with Tiwonge. They would both be at risk of violent attack."

Chimbalanga and Monjeza were arrested on December 28 last year following their symbolic wedding.

They were sentenced to the maximum 14 years in prison, with hard labour, before receiving the pardon.

"I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example," magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa told the two men during their sentencing.

"Malawi is not ready to see its sons getting married to its sons."

- AAP

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