Malawi Criminalise Lesbians

Malawi sank deeper into the human rights abuse pit when President Bingu Wa Mutharika signed a bill into law that criminalises sex between two women.

Malawi's penal code already prohibited sex between two men and the law was applied in the case of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza who were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for celebrating their love in what authorities called a traditional same-sex ceremony.

Malawi also rejected pressure by the donor community to comply with human rights obligations.

At a news conference yesterday, Malawi's Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs led a team of high-level spokespersons that rejected decriminalising homosexuality as a condition for receiving foreign aid.

Malawi government on Wednesday took a strong stand against bilateral donors saying it cannot compromise its sovereignty to legalise homosexuality in order to get aid.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Dr George Chaponda led a team of Presidential spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba, Information and Civic Education Minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda and Gender, Women and Children Welfare Minister Tereza Mwale in addressing a news conference in the capital Lilongwe.

The Justice Minister said the amendment was made because it was gender sensitive since it was only mentioning men and government wanted to include women to ensure that homosexuality is criminalized without discrimination.

“Am sure you now heard of women also committing indecent acts,” said the minister.

The minister challenged the donors that globally there is no consensus on gay rights saying 76 countries ban same sex marriages and criminalize gay or lesbians acts while 68 mostly European countries support gay rights.

He said in the SADC region, it is only South Africa and Namibia out of 16 that do not criminalise homosexuality.

Chaponda said Malawi cannot amend its laws to allow homosexuality just to receive donor aid.

Last week Germany withheld half of the $33 million in foreign aid promised to Malawi because of the criminalisation of homosexuality and the restriction of press freedom. On the heels of Germany's decision, the United States is refusing to sign over $350 million in foreign aid to Malawi without further talks about laws restricting "individual freedoms." The Global Fund recently rejected Malawi's application for $560 million.


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