NEW YORK, N.Y. --
Madonna is speaking out after a Malawian court sentenced a gay couple to 14 years of hard labor after they were convicted on charges of gross indecency and unnatural acts.
"I am shocked and saddened by the decision made today by the Malawian court, which sentenced two innocent men to prison," Madonna said in a statement to Access Hollywood on Thursday.
According to reports out of Malawi, Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, and Steven Monjeza, 26, were convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts, stemming from their arrest last year in December, when they held an engagement ceremony. On Thursday, they were sentenced to the maximum penalty – 14 years of hard labor in jail.
Homosexuality in Malawi is illegal. The country is the African nation from which Madonna adopted two of her children – David and Mercy.
Earlier on Thursday, Robert Gibbs, press secretary for President Barack Obama, released a statement saying the U.S. "strongly condemns the conviction and harsh sentencing," Reuters reported.
Additionally, the commonwealth office in Britain said they were "deeply dismayed" by the decision to jail the couple, the Irish Times reported.
Madonna, too, in her statement to Access, voiced her disappointment over the men's sentences.
"As a matter of principle, I believe in equal rights for all people, no matter what their gender, race, color, religion, or sexual orientation," her statement to Access continued. "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."
Madonna also asked Malawians and citizens across the world to speak up about the sentence.
"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," her statement to Access concluded.source: ACCESS HOLLYWOOD