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Gay marriage ruling in Malawi delayed

Consensual gay sex is criminalised in 38 out of 53 African countries. AFP / Alfredo Estrella

The verdict in the case of a gay Malawian couple who were jailed for holding a same-sex wedding has been delayed after the judge agreed that the defendants could call witnesses. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were charged with "gross indecency" when they held a symbolic public ceremony in northern Malawi in December.

The couple had been denied bail in January and ordered to return to court on 22 March, when Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa had been expected to deliver his verdict.

Gay activists, journalists and diplomats had come to the courtroom, where the judge said the prosecution had established a case against the couple, but agreed to allow defence lawyers to call witnesses from 3 April.

The couple, who face up to 14 years in prison, has already argued that their arrest violates their freedom of conscience.

Homosexuality is criminalised in the conservative southern African country, just like in over 30 other countries on the continent. Same-sex marriage is illegal across most of the continent, with South Africa being the only exception.