Britain through its High Commission in Lilongwe has added its voice against discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTI) people following arrest of two men based on their sexual orientation.
Malawi Police at Kanengo station in the capital Lilongwe on Monday, December 7, 2015 arrested two men on suspicion that they were engaging in homosexual acts in their house at Area 25 Township.
A 19-old Cuthbert Kulemera and 33-year-old Kelvin Gonani were arrested on suspicion that they may have had sex in the house of one of the suspect.
UK High Commission in Lilongwe took to Twitter to express concern on the arrest of the suspected gay men.
“We are concerned over the recent reports regarding the breaking of the moratorium on LGBTI rights,” tweeted the UK High Commission.
The tweet follows similar criticism by the Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) against the government and the Malawi Police Service (MPS) of breaching a moratorium on LGBTI.
Malawi in November 2012 stopped arresting people for same-sex intimacy pending a review of the country’s anti-gay laws.
The moratorium is related to High Court review of the constitutionality of Malawi’s anti-gay laws. The court invited government agencies, religious bodies and civil society organizations to take part in that review.
Malawi’s solicitor general and secretary for justice, Janet Chikaya-Banda told U.N. Human Rights Committee last year that a review by the Law Commission was stalled because of a lack of financial resources, even though the country has the political will to deal with the matter.
Under Malawian law, sexual intimacy between men is punishable by 14 years in prison; for women, the punishment is five years. But the constitutionality of those laws is currently in question. Human rights activists argue that the laws violate Malawi’s constitutional protections for citizens regardless of their sex, race, tribe or religion.
The High Court is focused on a review of the case of three men — Amon Champyuni, Mathews Bello and Musa Chiwisi — who were convicted in 2011 and are serving sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years for practicing homosexuality.
UK High Commission called on government and civil society organisations to ensure implementation of the Draft 2016-2020 Malawi National Human Rights Action Plan which includes strengthening justice for LGBTI persons.
“LGBTI person in Malawi should not be discriminated against in any way,” tweeted the UK High Commission.
EU head of delegation in Malawi, Marcel Gerrmann retweeted that European Union “continues to support local efforts to end discrimination against LGBTI persons in Malawi.”
United States ambassador Virginia Palmer also expressed concern with discrimination of LGBTI people.
According to National Police spokesperson, Nicholas Gondwa, argued that the police only acted to protect the lives of the two from the angry mob that was stoning the house of one of the suspects.
“We took them to our police office just for their own safety because on that day, these two people’s lives were in danger.
“People, who surrounded the suspect’s house, could have done anything because they know [him] as one of the people who sodomise young boys. That’s why we released them two days after the arrest,” said Gondwa as quoted in the local press.
Several religious groups have been vocal in their support of the existing anti-gay laws. In February, the Malawi Muslim Association proposed imposing the death penalty on homosexuals.
Opponents of the anti-gay laws include CEDEP, the Malawi Law Society, CHRR, the University of Malawi’s Faculty of Law, and the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders living with or affected by HIV.
According to Gift Trapence, executive director of CEDEP, homophobia is on the increase in Malawi.
Homosexuality has been a contentious issue in Malawi since at least 2009, when two men were arrested and charged with public indecency for getting married in a traditional ceremony. They were later pardoned by then President Bingu wa Mutharika under pressure from international aid donors and the United Nations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :