Women and Justice: Court: Chief Resident Magistrate's Court

Domestic Case Law

R v. Soko and Another Chief Resident Magistrate's Court (2010)


The two accused persons were charged and convicted of having carnal knowledge against the order of nature –contrary to Section 153(a) of the Penal Code, which is understood to prohibit same-sex sexual relations. In the alternative, the two accused persons were charged with indecent practices between men contrary to Section 156 of the Penal Code. Both of the accused persons pleaded not guilty but were convicted of both charges and sentenced to the maximum penalty of 14 years of imprisonment including hard labor. The two accused persons had conducted a traditional engagement ceremony, or chinkhoswe. They held themselves out to be husband and wife, and the second accused person identified as a woman but the court consistently referred to her as a man. The court found that both accused committed the crimes charged. In sentencing the two accused persons to the maximum punishment available, the court cited their perceived lack of remorse and their attempt to “seek heroism […] in public, and […] corrupting the mind of a whole nation with a chinkhoswe ceremony.” The court explicitly described the sentences of 14 years imprisonment with hard labor as deterrents so that the public could be “protected from others who may be tempted to emulate their [horrendous] example.” In closing, the court stated, “let posterity judge this judgment.” According to multiple news sources (e.g., the BBC), the President of Malawi pardoned both accused persons and they were subsequently released from prison with a warning not to resume their relationship.