BLANTYRE, Malawi – A judge convicted a gay couple in Malawi on Tuesday of unnatural acts and gross indecency after a trial that drew worldwide condemnation of this southern African country’s colonial-era laws on homosexuality.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, had been jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, the day they celebrated their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious, jeering onlookers.

Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa said the sentencing will take place Thursday. The couple could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

Hearings in the trial also have drawn Malawians who have ridiculed the couple, an indication of views on homosexuality in Africa.

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 37 countries on the continent. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for “repeat offenders.” Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

Michaela Clayton of the South Africa-based AIDS & Rights Alliance for Southern Africa said not only were human rights being violated, but the fight against AIDS was being hurt as well. Gay people forced underground were unlikely to seek counseling and treatment for AIDS, she and other activists said.

Clayton said gays in Africa had in recent years become more assertive about claiming their rights, which could have led to the backlash.

“We have to keep on being strategic about the way we push this agenda forward,” she said.

An earlier attempt by Monjeza’s and Chimbalanga’s lawyer to have the case thrown out was rejected. The effort was made on the grounds that the laws under which the men were prosecuted violate Malawi’s constitution.