Aspiring presidential candidates Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Atupele Muluzi of the United Democratic Front (UDF)have come under fire for recommending referendum to end debate on sexual minority rights.
The three said once voted into power in 2014 they would call for a referendum for Malawians to decide whether to accept people with consensual same sex.
The three opposition leaders said through media that they would throw the issue to Malawians to decide through a referendum.
But their response did not impress same-sex rights activists Gift Trapence of Centre for Development of People and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.
“While we agree that the issue of gay rights is an issue of national importance, hence requiring national approaches in addressing it, we do not agree that a referendum is one of those approaches,” argue the two organisations in their joint newspaper column.
“A referendum is not and cannot be the best way to proceed in a matter concerning a minority. All kinds of issues might be put to a court of public opinion, but the rights of minorities to fair and equal treatment before the law are simply not matters fit for public approval.
“What Mutharika, Muluzi and Chakwera and all other presidential candidates should know is that rights of minorities like all other human rights, are non negotiable.They do not depend on the goodwill of the majority and cannot be eliminated by majority vote, dominant norm or opinion.
“Malawi has to adapt to this uneasy democratic requirement if she is to enhance its democratic credentials,”
Cedep and CHRR called on the presidential candidates to show strong leadership and come up with a clear position on the matter.