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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
Madonna is seen getting a parking ticket for parking on a double yellow line outside of Aura nightclub on Thursday (May 20) in London, UK.
The 51-year-old entertainer will have another tribute episode of Glee devoted to her songs, and is being planned with more of her classics getting revamped for the show.
"We are, we're doing a sequel to the Madonna [episode]," creator Ryan Murphy told Access Hollywood. But he couldn't reveal if Madonna herself would make an appearance on Glee. "I can't say. But she's sort of the muse of our show, I think now. She loves the show and has supported it. She gets the show is about arts education and so she's very supportive about that."
AmFAR: that's the celebrity studded fundraising group for AIDS research. When Dr. Mathilde Krim started it over 20 years ago. AmFAR was alone and a pioneer in bringing the plight of AIDS and HIV to the world.
Two years ago Madonna made an appearance here in Cannes for AmFar's annual "Cinema Against AIDS' dinner. Madonna was in town to promote her self-important Africa documentary. She'd never been to Cinema Against AIDS before. Sharon Stone, as usual, was the emcee and auctioneer. Madonna–who has not donated money to AmFAR at least through her charitable Ray of Light foundation–auctioned off a couple of handbags she owned, a signed guitar, and some miscellaneous items from the stage, even some used tissues.
For her time, and the publicity, this column has now learned that Madonna received an in-kind donation to her then brand new Raising Malawi charity, of $1 million.
Raising Malawi was started in 2007 as an arm of the Kabbalah Center in Los Angeles. The group is busy inculcating Malawian children with Kabbalah curriculum. Says one former Kabbalah Centermember: "They're very good at going into poor countries and getting a foothold."
Raising Malawi had so much trouble getting a 501 c 3 designation that in early 2008, Gucci had to start its own foundation to accept money for it at a fundraiser. Everything about Raising Malawi is tied to the Kabbalah Center and Kabbalah's real estate arm in Los Angeles.
Never before Madonna picked up that million dollar check had AmFAR given such a large donation to any organization. In 2008, in fact, the second largest amount given to one entity was a total of about $350,000 to the University of New South Wales in New Zealand. The average amount AmFAR hands out is $10,000 with a few exceptions.
In 2007-2008, AmFAR did wind up giving grants totalling $6.7 million according to the same federal tax filing that lists the million dollar contribution to Raising Malawi. But they also list nearly the same amount of money in salaries, wages and associated fees. Their top staff fo six people makes a total of over $1 million a year. Working for AmFAR isn't a bad career. The two top execs earn about $300,000 apiece.
By contrast: the Elton John AIDS Foundation also gave grants of about $6.7 million in 2008. They list the expense of staff all-in at just about $400,000 approximately.
In 2008, the Elton John AIDS Foundation also sent AmFAR a check for over $350,000.
One of AmFAR's execs, Kevin Frost, emailed me: " Next to Elizabeth Taylor and Sharon Stone, I am hard pressed to think of a celebrity that has done more to help further our cause." He added that the event Madonna attended raised $10 million, although that's still anecdotal. Actual reported figures won't be available until at least the end of this year. He says the board approved the award.
Frost did not specify any more about how Madonna ranks with Stoneand Taylor. It's not an entirely accurate depiction. Stone has worked tirelessly for AmFAR for over a decade, taking over when Taylor went into retirement.
But in the last couple of years Stone's role has been severely diminished. This year she told me (in front of witnesses) that she had not been asked to help out in Cannes, and so took a film role. (The AmFAR people have angrily disputed this story.)
There's no doubt that AmFAR raises money for AIDS reseach and does many good things. But the Madonna pay off is an eye raiser. AmFAR, it could be argued, might have used the money elsewhere or in many different places. Frost says the group works with other Malawi aid organizations. But none have ever received anything close to a million dollars.
Producers of Glee have confirmed that they have a second Madonna episode of the hit show in the works.
"We're doing a sequel to the Madonna [episode]," producer Ryan Murphy told Access Hollywood.
On speculation the Material Girl may appear, Murphy commented: "I can't say. But she's sort of the muse of our show. She loves the show and has supported it. She gets that the show is about arts education and so she's very supportive about that.
Graham Norton has confessed he would love to meet Madonna.
The camp comedian promised if the Queen of Pop agreed to be a guest on his chat show he would dedicate an entire episode just to her.
Graham said: "She's my Holy Grail of chat show guests. Why the hell would she do it though? But, if we're on the air long enough, hopefully there will come a day when she'll come on."
He added: "Essentially it's because I'd like to meet her, it's as simple as that. I've never met her and I'd like to.
"In her case I think you'd do a special, I think you'd have to do a special just with her, maybe with other people along the way but it would be the Madonna show. If Glee can give up their show for her then I'm sure I can."
Recent interviewees on The Graham Norton Show have included comedy hero John Cleese and Hollywood A-lister Jennifer Lopez.
He said: "We always aim to have good people on, that's our plan. Some weeks are easier than other weeks. It does help to have that star power to kickstart the evening."
The Graham Norton Show, which is in its seventh series, is not as smutty as Norton's previous fayre and he's pleased to have moved on from double entendres.
Graham declared: "You know what? I really don't miss it. If I missed it I would still do it, and that was the point, we took it as far as we could and now the show's still fairly irreverent and it's still fairly out there, but it's not that rude."