Madonna is speaking out in support of two gay men who were handed a 14-year jail sentence in the African nation of Malawi, the same country where two of her children were born.
According to the Associated Press, two gay men, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, were sentenced to 14 years in prison, including hard labor, simply because they are homosexual. The men were arrested in December after they celebrated their engagement with a party, the AP reports.
Madonna, whose two youngest children, David and Mercy, were adopted from Malawi, spoke out harshly against the Malawian court’s decision, saying, “I am shocked and saddened by the decision made today by the Malawian court, which sentenced two innocent men to prison. As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. Today, Malawi took a giant step backward. The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved. I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi – and around the world – to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all.”
Also Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama’s Press Secretary released a statement, which read, “The United States strongly condemns the conviction and harsh sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga in Malawi. The criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity is unconscionable, and this case mars the human rights record of Malawi. We urge Malawi and all countries to stop using sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for arrest, detention, or execution.”