Tyranny of the majority: Malawi homosexuality debate

French political thinker, Alexis de Tocqueville, noticed that as much as democratic leadership is determined by people, ideally majority, “majority rule cannot be the only expression of supreme power in a democracy”. He added: “If so, … the majority would too easily tyrannise the minority. Thus, while it is clear that democracy must guarantee the expression of the popular will through majority rule, it is equally clear that it must guarantee that the majority will not abuse its power to violate the basic inalienable right of the minority.”Marriage Debate (1)

Attainment of people’s basic rights is what has defined Malawi political history, from our struggle against colonialism, our struggle from one party dictatorship to the current struggles for fulfillment of people’s rights and freedoms as stipulated in Malawi’s bill of rights. Not that one right is better than another, but it is safe to say that democracy cannot function if people are denied freedoms of expression and association.

The now famous 1992 Pastoral Letter, which helped dislodge Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s one party dictatorship made this point clear:

“Moreover, human persons are honoured–and this honour is due to them–whenever they are allowed to search freely for the truth, to voice their opinions and be heard, to engage in creative service of the community in all liberty within the associations of their own choice. Nobody should ever have to suffer reprisals for honestly expressing and living up to their convictions: intellectual, religious or political. We can only regret that this is not always the case in our country.”

As it was then, it remains that ‘not the case in our country; I was recently reminded of this when President Peter Mutharika reportedly told the ‘Talk to the President’ programme on MBCtv that he would put the question of legalising homosexuality in Malawi to a referendum. Never mind the name and the nature of the programme on which the President made the remarks, State House subsequently issued a statement that the President was speaking as a citizen of Malawi and not as a State President.

A section of the local civil society groups has since asked the President, via media briefings, to make his position on the issue known, and as a President, to be mindful that he cannot pity minority groups to a mob rule. I agree with the civil society, and similar to de Tocqueville’s observation calling referendum on sexual minority rights constitutes mob justice, not democracy, Malawians through a referendum voted for on June 14 1993.

That referendum signalled one fundamental point: Malawians were different people ideologically. Our common denominator is the republican constitution – the supreme law of the land, which the President promised to uphold and protect. The constitution outlaws any form of discrimination, including people’s sexual orientation. Relegating protection of existing statues to a referendum signals a failure of leadership. Unprincipled and populist leadership that only panders to the supposed popular opinion and not necessary what is right.

If majority decisions were so sacred, why is that we currently have a president that was voted for by only 36 percent of Malawians? Is it not because we have to abide by our electoral laws? Why has the president only suddenly found majority decision so popular?

The answer is simple and it is something the country’s politically aware citizens have discussed and pushed for over the years: issue-based politics. Malawi politics is not ideologically based. This means that our leaders do not really know what they stand for, apart from the fact that they know they want to be in power. To be in power you need people’s votes and so populism is the way to go. This is tantamount to people leading themselves.

It is okay for believers to cite verses on homosexuality from their prayer books but one thing we must all remember is that this is a constitutional issue because Malawi is a democracy, not a theocracy. The laws of the land are guided by the Republic Constitution, not prayer books.

Mutharika is a learned man–a lawyer by profession and decades of experience in the academia so I should believe he is aware of the issues raised here. The problem is that he is being guided by politics and a quest for more years in power. He has always stated that he will win 2019 elections. So it is about maintaining power, governance issues have to be in line with that objective or the latter suffers.

It is argued that a civilization is measured by how it treats its minorities. Our learned president has an opportunity to stay on the right side of history and lead Malawi into the right direction.

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15 thoughts on “Tyranny of the majority: Malawi homosexuality debate”

  1. mkwapukwapu mwadyetsa says:

    President to declare that he has won he needs the votes of majority. What on earth this article talking about?. Issue was exposed publically for the citizens to express their views on the gay thing and most including myself are disagree. Education must not perish our culture neither bend our constitutions of our country. It doesn’t matter that you are a profession of law or gays but the fact is: we need to obey the Creator which is GOD then obey our law finally never ever ruin your culture.

  2. Nepman says:

    Kodi inu a malawi ma gay mukuawopa bwanji? They are just people living out their lives. Why are you all up in arms against a handful of people – ARE YOU SCARED YOU ARE GAY TOO??? Maybe you are. Check the way you been looking at work mate!

    It’s all bullshit! Being gay may be a natural phenomenon or something acquired but whichever it is, if a person is or wants to be gay let them be gay. It’s their right!

  3. Jah Love says:

    The constitution u are talking about is built on the same PRAYER PAPERS…This is another tactic the USA wants to Reduce to zero the African Population…Demons in Hell!!!

  4. George phiri says:

    Homosexuality is disgusting. Uchitsiru umamsangalatsa munthu ngati Kainja. Unless you change! You dont have freedom and rights in Malawi. Ife sitingapereke ufulu kwa anthu opusa ngati Kainja. Actually there will never be referendum on this matter in Malawi mpakana nonse ma homo mudzamwalire.
    Mufe ndithu ndipo mufe msanga. Mufunako chani kumatako??????

  5. A Malawi tiyeni tiope Mulungu ndipo inu ama Gay kweni kweni chavuta ndichani?Tsiku lina tizamva amachimo ena ie afiti, asatanic,etc akuti nafenso ufulu wathu tipasidwe.Zimenezo kuyambira kale zikuchedwa tchimo eniwakenu mukuziwa ndithu koma mukufuna ife tikhuzidwe nanu pazinthu zolakwika?And you western countries you are the ones bringing in new lives which surely will bare alot of uprisings amongst societies.All these Boko haraams,isis, Binladen group,alushabaab,etc they are rising up becoz of some of your dirty ideas which you are spreading in the name of human rights/democracy.Why dont you respect our culture which from the very beginning it united the people and also we grew with discipline.Look Africa has never forced you to copy our life style.And if some want what you fight us then accommodate them otherwise its a curse for a man sleeping with another man the same applies to women.Democracy has brought disunity, curses,misconducts, theft,etc.West Africa clearly explained they wont accept why dont you go there and fight them?Bescoz majority are moslems they hate you? There4 you take advantage of us poor Malawians to get steered to all your wishes?Finish first with Islamic states then end up with us here as christian majority countries.We hate what you are forcing us to accept.God blessed us already with the existence of male and female so you need what?Sorry Western tell them to find their own planet to live since they have their own God who is pleased with such un desirable practices.They dont belong here on this third planet and I encourage you USA to fight harder in discovering pluto the home of Gays.None will worry with them living on Pluto or Mars whatever you are busy exploring.Best wishes to you.And leave planet earth for the children of YAHWEH OKAY.

  6. Thitherward 'wendo says:

    Mr Kainja, you need to see the bigger picture: the well-meaning but ineffectual white liberals of North America and Europe have struggled to help African-Americans and African-Europeans to achieve equal opportunities in their respective regions. They have failed. That issue has now been consigned to the ‘too-hard’ basket. They looked around for an issue of more manageable proportions, and found one. They are now exerting all their efforts on winning for homosexuals the equal opportunities that they failed to win for people of African origin.

    This whole homosexual rights issue is simply a distraction from the search for answers to the much bigger problem: injustice and inequity based on race.

    We must concentrate our efforts on finding solutions to the discrimination that affects all of us. The gay rights campaign is just a distraction designed to make white ‘do-gooding’ feel good. These campaigners can achieve easy victories in many parts of world. The rights gays want are rights African-Americans and African-Europeans have had for centuries. Our marriages are legal. Our demands are much more complex, and require complex responses.

    Unfortunately, many Africans are rushing to add their support to the great, gay, grand-distraction, instead of forcing the world to tackle the greatest challenge of all: the deracialization of opportunity.

    We must learn to prioritize our efforts.

  7. Kanyimbi says:

    Very stupid thinking. who told you that a vagina is the same as an ass? Foolish people. We are not a homosexual country.

  8. zingati zanu says:

    ou neighboring country Mozambique decided to be quite on the issue and even the law is as silent. better be silent as we are to many issues, than come out with no fact at all. Does anyone authorise that you make a woman swallo a penis or that tidzinyambitana nyini? what of a doggy style most men are fond of? who regulate sex? when Adam was in the garden for years alone. yes alone? zanu ndi zingati?

  9. wa ku Mitchesi kujaaaaa!!!! says:

    Kainja’s argument is focused; and those opposing him had better have arguments based on substance, rather than emotion. We are tired of the emotion positions, based on religion or nothing really. This does NOT cut it.
    Majority can abuse minorities; but modern constitutions, especially in democracies, are meant to thwart this trend. Malawi should emulate Mozambique and South Africa, our neighbors, and get out of the dark ages. Why not? These 2 are African countries.
    Furthermore, there is no rationale is saying that those championing the rights of LGBs are Ls, Gs or Bs. Human rights advocates are just that. Threatening them will and should not stop them. Just like the Bishops could NOT be stopped by the Kamuzu, and his thuggish followers.

  10. jk says:

    Mr Jimmy K, there is nothing as truth in homo,nothing as creative way of engaging in community service in homo hence nothing closer to the meaning of our Bishops pastoral letter is in homo. Do not try to coat marrijuana with chocolate and force it on your children that it is edible and nice if they chose to eat it.
    APM was elected with simple mojority of Malawians who casted their votes not the minority as you would want to present it. So will homo be defeated if it wud be put to referendum.
    Educate me how man fuking man becomes basic right and not misala. How do we put that up to our children as their right? Moral standards ought to be guarded just as a mother can not marry her own son, even if the two decides to as their right.

  11. Joel Maganizo says:

    Jimmy Kainja, Malawi has bigger problems to address and legalizing homosexuality is not one of them. We have daily power cuts, collapsing healthcare system, unreliable water supplies,escalating inflation and unbearable astronomical cost of living, among other things which affect every citizen of this land. Why do you spend your energies on such a small topic? How may gay people are there in Malawi? Will they due of the status quo remains the way it is? Are you gay?

  12. Zamanyazi says:

    Jimmy Kainja,just practise your homosexuality in secret as chamba smokers do,otherwise you will face the music as we stand now. You are citing the issue of majority here. In your view,what is majority and how is it decided? Are minorities homosexuals only? If you are fighting for minority rights,join the rastas to persuade government allow their children attend classes in dreadlocks and give them time for “kufukiza”. What does the constitution say about homosexuality? Don’t just cite a section on segregation of minorities basing on whatever,cite a section on homosexuality. Jimmy Kainja,Malawi is indeed a democracy not theocracy,guided by the constitution and not prayer books as you have said and surely this statement will one day come back to you when you will tell the whole nation what Malawi is and which books guide her. Uzadzindikira bwino patsogolo,Kainja. God fights his own battles. He doesn’t wait for us to fight for him. Ingoti pheee uone,Jimmy Kainja!!

  13. Kamuzuba says:

    You are sick in your mind and on paper. I pity you for western colonization of your brain.

  14. opportunist says:

    This is the topic i hate reading .What special interest have they found in our country .

  15. ... says:

    Amalekeranji ma homowo kukhala in majority?

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