Malawi is a secular state and not a Christian nation and as such it does not criminalize anything on the basis that it is a sin, activist have said in the light of the denouncement by some religious leaders are now denouncing a government moratorium on anti-homosexual laws pending a decision on whether to repeal the legislation.
Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu announced that a review of all colonial-area sodomy laws will be launched in consultation with the people of Malawi.
But already some faith leaders are not happy with the decision and have asked the government not to relent to pressure from Western donors by allowing same-sex relationships.
“It is disgusting that a nation can succumb to dictates of the donors and, in the process, lose our identity, our spiritual track and our tradition,” said Reverend Maurice Munthali, spokesman for the Presbyterian Church in Livingstonia.
And Young Pastors Coalition of Malawi (YPCM) wants government to re-arrest Cuthbert Kulemeka and Kelvin Gomani who are suspected to be homosexuals and were recently freed.
The pastors’ grouping said homosexuals’ rights should not be given room in Malawi and its national director Patrick Banda said the religious leaders will take unspecified action if charges for two men of having sex “against the order of nature” are not restored.
A born-again Christian and politician Ken Msonda also called for gays to be killed.
But Centre for Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence has condemned calls for jungle justice against gays, saying Malawi is a secular State where religious beliefs and culture should not be used as basis for oppressing others.
He said rights of homosexuals have to be respected and that Christianity should not be misused as an excuse for homophobia
Malawian human rights activist Billy Mayaya said government is on the “right track” to suspend anti-homosexuality law but said the public needs to be sensitised “to understand the secular nature of our country.”
Mayaya said: “Many people here thought Malawi is a Christian country which is not true, we are a secular state.”
Billy Banda, director of Malawi Watch, a local good governance group, accused the government of making a rushed decision, explaining that it would have been more appropriate, to push for an emergency session of parliament to decide the anti-homosexuality law once and for all.
“It is unfair and very unfair,” he said. “When we are talking about human rights, we are not talking about [a] minority. There are majority rights as well. So what we are asking now is government must rescind that moratorium. It is un-cultural.”
But government fears the activist are misinterpreting secular status of Malawi and seeks to redefine it to advance an anti-religious agenda.
Christians also claim their rights to freedom of religious conscience have been steadily subordinated to the rights – especially of homosexual people – to equality.
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