All Malawians Should be Treated with Love

ADAM-022473-0005-C003049973-026548Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika will purportedly participate in a traditional engagement ceremony on Valentine’s Day with the lovely woman he has been seen escorting of late. I wish him all the happiness in the world. But at the same time Mutharika looks forward to sharing his life with the person of his choice, two men remain jailed in Malawi because they tried to do the same.

At the end of December 2009, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested following their participation in a traditional engagement ceremony. They are currently on trial for “unnatural practices between males” and “gross public indecency.” They remain imprisoned after being denied bail, purportedly for their own safety, and face public ridicule when appearing in court. They have applied for relief to the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of their arrest under Malawian law but have yet to receive a ruling.

Following the arrest of Monjeza and Chimbalanga, three things have happened. First, Malawi’s gay rights movement has become much more active. Second, Malawi has harshly cracked down on gay rights activists. Third, the international community has mobilized, demanding the release of these two men and the repeal of homosexuality as a crime in Malawi. I view two of these outcomes as very positive, and unfortunately, one of them not so much. The arrest of someone for putting up posters that read “Gay Rights are Human Rights” is not only harassment, but it is violative of freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Malawi is a signatory.

Malawi is also pushing back against the international community, stating other nations and individuals have no right to dictate the laws in their country, raising fears Malawi will only entrench further on its anti-homosexuality stance in the face of this criticism. As a general rule, I appreciate the concept of sovereignty and that other States should stay out of the business of running a nation. However, when persons are discriminated against, their rights violated, their civil liberties trampled, their basic freedoms curtailed and their safety endangered purely because of who they are as individuals, it is the duty of all human beings to stand up and say that this is wrong.

President Mutharika looks to have a very busy year between settling into a new marriage and assuming the African Union chairmanship.  The increased visibility and prestige of chairing the African Union makes it incumbent upon Mutharika to set positive standards for all of the continent.  Monjeza and Chimbalanga return to court tomorrow as their case resumes. Stand up and do your duty as a global citizen and urge Malawi to treat all its citizens, gay and straight, president and average Joe, with love.

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15 thoughts on “All Malawians Should be Treated with Love

  1. As we so often see, both around the world and in our own little corner, the double standard continues. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is ignored, gay rights are ignored, and people are treated like dogs for their alternative life style choices. This has got to stop!

  2. As we so often see, both around the world and in our own little corner, the double standard continues. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is ignored, gay rights are ignored, and people are treated like dogs for their alternative life style choices. This has got to stop!

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  4. Thank you for your comments and concern Carolyn. It's important that we stand up and demand people be treated humanely and with compassion.
    Sarah

  5. Thank you for your comments and concern Carolyn. It’s important that we stand up and demand people be treated humanely and with compassion.
    Sarah

  6. Dear 'Pirmasens Nagelstudio"-

    I am not entirely sure what you mean by your post. I take it to mean that instead of bringing attention to the issue and pushing the Malawian government to act in accordance with human rights treaties to which it is a party, you are suggesting that this is only creating a greater problem and instead we should look at why gay people are treated so poorly in the first place in Malawi?

    If that is correct, then my answer is this: gay people experience discrimination, abuse and poor treatment in pretty much every country on the planet. Malawi is not special in this instance. However, the reasons why gay people are treated so poorly is often rooted in deep seated beliefs of a religious nature and it is not appropriate nor is it our place to say that it is wrong to believe that way. But it IS our job, both here at Amnesty and for all global citizens to say that despite those beliefs, it is still wrong to treat someone inhumanely.

    Therefore, I cannot agree with you that urging Malawi to take another look at its laws criminalizing homosexuality and to view them through a human rights lens is not creating a bigger problem. Rather it might be the best way to come to a solution.

    Sarah

  7. Dear ‘Pirmasens Nagelstudio”-

    I am not entirely sure what you mean by your post. I take it to mean that instead of bringing attention to the issue and pushing the Malawian government to act in accordance with human rights treaties to which it is a party, you are suggesting that this is only creating a greater problem and instead we should look at why gay people are treated so poorly in the first place in Malawi?

    If that is correct, then my answer is this: gay people experience discrimination, abuse and poor treatment in pretty much every country on the planet. Malawi is not special in this instance. However, the reasons why gay people are treated so poorly is often rooted in deep seated beliefs of a religious nature and it is not appropriate nor is it our place to say that it is wrong to believe that way. But it IS our job, both here at Amnesty and for all global citizens to say that despite those beliefs, it is still wrong to treat someone inhumanely.

    Therefore, I cannot agree with you that urging Malawi to take another look at its laws criminalizing homosexuality and to view them through a human rights lens is not creating a bigger problem. Rather it might be the best way to come to a solution.

    Sarah

  8. Araceli-
    I am not sure what it is that you aren't getting. If you can clarify your concerns or questions, I can try to assist you with more information.

    Ollie-
    Unfortunately Amnesty USA's website is English only as that is the dominant language here in the US. There is an Amnesty Italy section that likely has a blog, but of course it then becomes a matter of their bloggers posting what they are concerned about. I appreciate you taking the time to read my postings, even though its a pain for you to do so. But I will pass on to the tech people your suggestion about global translator.

    Sarah

  9. Araceli-
    I am not sure what it is that you aren’t getting. If you can clarify your concerns or questions, I can try to assist you with more information.

    Ollie-
    Unfortunately Amnesty USA’s website is English only as that is the dominant language here in the US. There is an Amnesty Italy section that likely has a blog, but of course it then becomes a matter of their bloggers posting what they are concerned about. I appreciate you taking the time to read my postings, even though its a pain for you to do so. But I will pass on to the tech people your suggestion about global translator.

    Sarah