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Mobilising support One of these was Gift Trapence, who runs the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), an LGBTI rights advocacy organisation.Just weeks before Chimbalanga’s chinkhoswe, Cedep’s offices had been raided and its safer-sex materials confiscated as “pornography”.
In truth, Trapence had never before encountered Chimbalanga or Monjeza, and had first heard about the chinkhoswe when he read about it in the .newspaper on December 26 2009, beneath a photograph of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, bleary-eyed and uncomfortable in matching his-and-hers outfits cut from the same wax print.The story’s first paragraph reads: “Gay lovebirds Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza on Saturday made history when they spiced their festive season with an engagement ceremony ( Two days later, the couple was arrested and charged with “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” – a hangover from the British colonial penal code – which had never been used against two consenting adults in Malawi. It was, the judge said, “a scaring sentence”: there was to be no more of such nonsense.In Blantyre, where she lived, she often defended her dignity with her fists.She has never thought of herself as “gay”, she told me.Despite intensive English lessons, she can still not speak the language well enough to enter the job market.
And her body is covered in scars: she has been attacked at least five times since moving to Cape Town.
He immediately set about organising legal defence for the accused and mobilising international support.
The arrest “was on the radio shows, in the taxis, on the pulpits; it was as if Malawi itself was coming to an end”, he told me.
After eight years of schooling, she left the village because, she says, she had been bewitched and needed to seek help from a traditional healer in the north.
When she returned two years later, she was dramatically different, living entirely as a woman and with a new name.
Indeed, the first time she heard the word was when she saw it written under her photograph on the cover of the Nation.