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A gay couple in Malawi, found guilty of gross indecency and unnatural acts after they took part in an ‘engagement ceremony,’ was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday.

Steven Mojenza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were convicted in a court Tuesday.

The pair was arrested in December at their home in Blantyre, Malawi, for professing their love in a traditional engagement ceremony. They were rounded up after news reports surfaced, charged under colonial-era sodomy laws and detained at Chichiru Prison without bail.

The arrests received some popular support in the conservative southern African nation, but sparked condemnation by gay rights activists. Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for the release of the couple.