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Malawi Hub



04/19/2007


UN to Challenge Malawi's Anti-Gay Laws in Court

The United Nations' AIDS taskforce and human rights groups plan to take Malawi to court over its anti-gay laws, Reuters reports:

MalawiThe legislation has strained relations between President Joyce Banda's government and international donors, whose aid is desperately needed in the impoverished country.

UNAIDS, the Malawi Law Society and local rights groups will ask the high court on March 17 to overturn as unconstitutional laws banning same-sex relationships.

They will also challenge the convictions of three men jailed in 2011. Homosexuality carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years in the southern African country. "Our argument is that as long as same-sex relationships are consensual and done in private no one has business to get bothered," law society spokeswoman Felicia Kilembe said.

 


Malawian Jailed For 2010 Gay Wedding: 'I Have No Regrets'

Tiwonge2

As Americans in Washington state celebrate same-sex marriage and UK lawmakers work toward equality there, hundreds of thousands of LGBT people still live in fear, many of them in African nations like Malawi, where Tiwonge Chimbalanga (pictured, right) and then-husband Steven Monjeza were sentenced in 2010 to 14 years in prison for getting married.

A massive, global outcry and the intervention of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon led late Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika to pardon them.

Chimbalanga, no longer with Monjeza, is living as a woman in South Africa, and recently sat down with AFP for her first interview since her marriage started an international incident:

"I don't have any regrets, I didn't do anything wrong," Chimbalanga, who identifies as a transgender woman despite being tried as a gay man, told AFP.

...

I had mixed feelings because on the one hand I felt it was a wonderful thing for me to do a normal, natural thing like getting married, whilst on the other hand it was very painful," said Chimbalanga.

"I was beaten in prison. During the trial the security guards ill-treated me. I was verbally abused and suffered all sorts of inhumane treatments, I have scars from the beatings. Yet I felt good that I was able to do what I wanted to do."

Chimbalanga says in Malawi there are two sets of human rights, one for the rich and one for the poor.

"I want everyone to have their human rights and freedom to choose what they want to be and the only way to achieve that is by coming out and claiming their rights," she said.

She also said she plans on marrying again in South Africa, "Even here in South Africa I want to get married and I am going to invite the reporters from Malawi to come and witness for themselves and to report the truth about it. I want the whole world to know because this is not the end."


Malawi Minister Now Claims Nation Not Reversing Anti-Gay Laws

MalawigaypaperHuman Rights activists and diplomats the world over congratulated Malawi for saying this week that they suspended homophobic laws and stopped arresting people just for being gay.

"If we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government," Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said, according to Reuters.

But now Kasambara's claiming he never said that. The LA Times reports that Kasambara told Malawi's Daily Times, "There was no such announcement and there was no discussion about same-sex marriages. Nobody talked about suspension of any provision of the penal code."

So all that talk about Malawi leading the way on LGBT rights in Africa? Forget it. Instead remember that a Malawian gay couple were sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 - again, just for being gay. Their picture was run on the front of newspapers all across the country, as seen above.


Malawi Suspends Anti-Homosexuality Laws, Orders Police Not to Arrest Gays

Malawi suspended its anti-gay laws on Monday amid debate about whether they should be repealed over human rights backlash that has left the country without some of its financial support, Reuters reports:

MalawiHomosexuality is banned in Malawi - as it is in 36 other African states - and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, but Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said he wanted debate on the issue before parliament decided whether to keep the laws or not.

"If we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government," he told Reuters.

"It is better to let one criminal get away with it rather than throw a lot of innocent people in jail."

Malawi Today adds:

Kasambara, who is also Attorney General, said government wants to encourage debate and decide on whether laws against same- sex relationships should continue to be criminalized.

“There is a moratorium on all such laws, meaning that police will not arrest or prosecute anyone based on these laws. These laws will not be enforced until the time that Parliament makes a decision,” he said.

In legal parlance, a moratorium is used when the Executive arm of government, which is mandated to enforce laws, decides to temporarily suspend enforcement of a legislation, especially when it raises controversies that require its review.


Malawi's President Vows to Repeal Ban on Homosexual Acts

Malawi's new President Joyce Banda says she will take steps to alleviate oppression of gays and lesbians in that country, vowing to repeal a ban on homosexual acts, the AP reports:

BandaPresident Joyce Banda’s announcement during her first state of the nation address Friday is one of several steps she has taken that break with the administration of her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office in April.

Malawi had faced international condemnation for the conviction and 14-year prison sentences given to two men in 2010, who had been arrested after celebrating their engagement and were charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency.

In 2010, Mutharika officially pardoned Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, the gay couple who had been sentenced to 14 years of hard labor under sodomy and indecency laws. You may remember that they were originally arrested after holding a public wedding ceremony in December 2009.


Uganda, Ghana, Malawi Push Back at UK Threat to Cut Aid Over Laws Which Criminalize Homosexuality

Several African nations are responding with anger after UK Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to slash one type of bilateral aid known as general budget support to countries that refuse to reform laws which criminalize homosexuality.

CameronMr Cameron said he had spoken with "a number of African countries" and that more pressure had been applied by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who deputised for him during parts of the summit. Some 41 nations within the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning homosexuality. Many of these laws are a legacy of British Empire laws.

From the Nyasa Times:

Malawi government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said it was “unfortunate” for Britain to have “pro-gay strings” to aid. She said homosexual acts are illegal in Malawi and noted that these laws are a legacy of British rule...MCC chairperson Bishop Dr. Joseph Bvumbwe,  Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) chairperson the Reverend Dr Lazarus Chakwera  and Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) secretary Father George Buleya told reporters in Lilongwe that they were not happy with UK position on gay rights. Bvumbwe said British Prime Minister’s statements were 'unfortunate'  and they they regard them as 'unacceptable and provocative.'"

TettehGhana responds

(Ghana’s Trade and Industry Minister, Ms Hannah) Tetteh insists same sex relationships are unacceptable in African cultural set-ups and no amount of threats would make Ghana kowtow to UK’s threat. Interacting with a section of the media in Accra on Tuesday, Ms Tetteh stated that the western world has no right to force its cultural and moral orientations on Ghana and that the government will make its stance clear at the appropriate time. 'Every society has its norms and what it considers to be acceptable,' she said. 'In the Western world it is acceptable to have gay relationships and even move on to the next level to gay marriages, in our society it is unacceptable.'"

Uganda responds:

(Ugandan presidential adviser John) Nagenda accused Mr Cameron of showing an "ex-colonial mentality" and of treating Ugandans "like children". "Uganda is, if you remember, a sovereign state and we are tired of being given these lectures by people," he told the BBC's Newshour programme. "If they must take their money, so be it."...Mr Nagenda said he doubted that the Ugandan parliament would ever approve a bill which proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts. "I believe it will die a natural death. But this kind of ex-colonial mentality of saying: 'You do this or I withdraw my aid' will definitely make people extremely uncomfortable with being treated like children," Mr Nagenda said.

Said Cameron: "This is an issue where we are pushing for movement, we are prepared to put some money behind what we believe. But I'm afraid that you can't expect countries to change overnight. Britain is one of the premier aid givers in the world. We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights. We are saying that is one of the things that determines our aid policy, and there have been particularly bad examples where we have taken action."


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