Malawian woman in rare confession: ‘I am a lesbian’

Amid  advanced discrimination and stigma, a Malawian woman has come into the open and made a rare declaration that she has been a lesbian for some years.

The Lilongwe based 23-year-old Mercy Kumwenda said she had decided to come out in the open as the first step to getting society to accept that lesbians exist and will always be part of the society.

Kumwenda made the confession to the media on the sidelines of a post 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) National Consultative meeting organised by Oxfam in Lilongwe.

“People think that you are a witch, abnormal, satanic or you just want to make money but for me its inborn. I mean how do you sleep with a man if I have no feelings for a man, I have tried dating men but it didn’t work,” said Kumwenda as quoted by blogger and The Nation journalist  Bright Mhango on mutafire.blogspot.co.uk.

Kumwenda: I am a lesbian no need to hide my sexual orientation

Kumwenda: I am a lesbian no need to hide my sexual orientation

She urged Malawians to start believing that lesbianism was real in the country but those who practice it do not come out in the open for fear of the society’s reaction.

“I know many others who choose not to come out because they are afraid of the society’s reaction,” Kumwenda, a health medical carer for the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) responsible for Lilongwe district was also quoted in the Daily Times.

CEDEP, a Malawian non-governmental organization, aims to advance the human rights and health of minority groups such as sex workers, prisoners and people in same sex relationships and is headed by Gift Trapence, a renowned local gay rights campaigner also widely believed to be one.

But Kumwenda, who reportedly discovered her sexual orientation when she enrolled for standard eight and had her first relationship with her closest friend, said like all other lesbians, she was a normal human being who deserves respect and not a target for ridicule.

“We actually have a name Mathanyula for it showing that being gay is not from the West, it has been in Malawi for a long time,” said Kumwenda.

She revealed that she was still in that relationship although they were yet to decide on marriage issue.

Kumwenda said she has so far only disclosed that she was a lesbian to her employers.

She said a lot of lesbians in Malawi cannot come out because of how the society perceives them even on the slightest suspicion of their being what they are.

“We have to come out because if we don’t, how will government and other institutions going to help us? We want to be protected. That can only be achieved if the forthcoming MDGs incorporate our issues as well,” she said.

She further said it was important for the forthcoming development goals to incorporate issues that are going to liberate lesbians or homosexuals in general from problems they face in the society such as discrimination and access to health services.

“Lesbianism is not something people copied from the western countries. It has been amidst us for a long time,” said Kumwenda, who observed that this was why Malawi has a local reference to the practice called ‘mathanyula’.

Debate on homosexuality in Malawi gained momentum during the late president Bingu wa Mutharika administration when Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza became the first gay couple in Malawi to hold a public engagement in Blantyre in December 2009.

They were jailed by the court for 14 years imprisonment with hard labour but a few weeks into their sentence Mutharika pardoned them following pressure from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who visited the country alongside other western governments and human rights activists.

Mid last year two Blantyre based girls- Regina Mmangausi and Ruth Banda- hit headlines after they also reportedly held a private traditional engagement which was later discovered to be fake and was staged by some unscrupulous people who wanted to taste waters.

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