Malawi’s LGBTQ’s short-lived freedom

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Malawi’s LGBTQ’s short-lived freedom

I’d like to believe that Malawi's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) citizens and tourists had a few days to breath easier. 

On November 5, the government issued a moratorium suspending all laws decriminalizing homosexuality. Three days later, on November 8, homosexuality was illegal again.

Had the moratorium held, Malawi's LGBTQ citizens, who constantly walk in fear and have increasingly been singled out, could not be arrested by police or be reported as engaging in same-gender consensual activity. Tourists would also be protected from arrest—those accused of homosexual activity are expelled as "undesirable aliens."

Malawians in opposition to the government’s moratorium contest it was not driven by a change in heart toward its LGBTQ citizens, but rather the change was solely motivated to appease the country's Western donor nations, which to them is a present-day example of former colonialists interference, influence and dictate on African life.

Malawi's Justice Minister, Ralph Kasambara publicly refuted his opponents’ cynicism concerning the motive behind the moratorium by stating to the Associated Press, "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."

A few days later, Kasambara flip-flopped stating to the Daily Times, “There was no such announcement and there was no discussion on same-sex marriage." 

Kasambara’s reversal is a direct result of Malawi Council of Churches, cadre comprising of 24 homophobic churches that associate homosexuality with Satanism.

The country's traditionalists and religious conservatives did not like the world’s interference in their business. They contend that homosexuality is an anathema to an African identity, cultural and family values; and it's one of the many ills white Europeans brought to the Motherland (a similar homophobic polemic still argued among religiously conservative African Americans).  But if truth be told, criminalizing homosexuality in Malawi is a by-product of British colonialism. Nonetheless, the debate between "authentically African" and Western colonial remnants always finds some way to dispute the reality of black LGBTQ existence. Malawi is not alone—thirty-eight of fifty-four countries in the African continent criminalizes same-gender consensual activity.

Malawi's anti-gay laws are some of the world's toughest edicts criminalizing homosexuality so, understandably, the moratorium sent shock waves throughout the country and around the world.

Case in point, the infamous Malawi couple Steven Monjeza, a gay man, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a transwoman, who were sentenced to 14 years hard labor on charges of homosexuality in 2010. An international outcry and presidential pardon by Bingu wa Mutharika brought about their release. 

Malawi got it's independence from the British Commonwealth in 1964, but it hasn't from the church.

The church willfully operates under colonial rule with its ecclesiastical edicts toward its LGBTQ brethren. I like to believe that the country's justice minister should not have too.

Comments [1]

Not2Taem's picture

And Freedom Here?

When I read something in the side bar that I think should get some attention, I am often at a loss for how to do that, but this seems a natural connection. We are so often concerned about the outrageous actions of other states, but ignor the ongoing and damaging ignorace that has become so commom place in our own. 

I just read a Rueters article on the book In Our Mothers' House, which has been put behind the counter in a Utah public elementary school.

Having taught for decades in an elementary school which until very recently had Boys Read and Girls Read bookshelves, and which withdrew countless books because some selfrightious parents were bothered by them, I have experienced firsthand the damage done by such policies. Every time we try to employ that old, tired Seperate But Equal bullshit, we are telling someone that they are less.

In this case, young minds and spirits are being indoctrinated to see queer folk as something shameful, something that can only be safely encountered with permission from, and accompanyment of, a parent. Then there are the children who's own families are being denegrated. I can read about your family anytime I want. Heck, you're all over our daily readers, but my family? That has to be kept secret. You might catch it or something! 

Our own little corner of the world is no great advanced and forward thinking thing, either.

And yes, I know this is lesser violence, but it is also a great part of where all that tieing people to fences and torturing them, or dragging them behind cars BS starts in our country.