I am impelled to write on the above topic because of the discussion unfolding in our social networks notably on Facebook and the print media.
There are those who have made critical comments about the president’s decision to ease the suffocating grip of archaic laws that have been used to clampdown the liberties of those with contrasting sexual alignments.
We have had innocent Malawians answering to the call of their emotional feelings being singled out, jailed, despised and even mistreated by mainstream society.
There is a section of the mainstream society making very pejorative and deleterious remarks as if they are holier than the group they seek to demonize. Quite often, the remarks made lack informed thought process needed to make a constructive argument on the subject matter.
The comments posted on social networks paint a picture that there are some people in our society who have convinced themselves that they hold an otherworldly decree to judge others and even endorse persecution of minority groups based on difference in sexual orientation.
Those asked to represent us in parliament pretend to act as though they are in defence of a sacred culture even if that culture doesn’t exist. Their trajectory into the subject matter falls short of the principles that advocate equity and social inclusion.
This calls for some soul-searching questions especially in a country where the mainstream society has the propensity to stage protests in defence of laws that suffocate the liberties of minority groups because their crime is rooted, so they argue, in them being of different sexual orientations.
In this era of democracy, why so much controversy and waste our time and scarce resources to develop legal instruments aimed at stifling the freedoms of minority groups who are merely being themselves? Why make the fuss of the sexual affairs that happen between two people?
The subject under scrutiny here is the steps taken by the Peoples Party (PP) led government to suspend the homophobic laws in order to pave way for a substantive and principled debate on homosexuality in Malawi.
I fully take comfort in such a decision making process as it contests the beliefs of mainstream society despite the risks therein politically.
Reading the comments posted on social networks and Nyasa Times website makes me ask critical questions about our multiparty democracy and, if at all, we fully understand the principles that underpin this ideological perspective of state management.
We all know that, at the core of a democratic state, we need to embrace the values of tolerance and diversity.
Above all else, the protection of the rights of minority groups is a responsibility that any popular government needs to undertake and safeguard even if it means dealing with aspects of mainstream morality.
On the contrary and in violation of principles underpinning multiparty democracy, it seems there is a segment of mainstream society which is so determined to maintain dogmatic values that have ostracized minority assemblages over the years.
There have been high-handed urgings to deny the rights of minority groups. This is in addition to the parochial critique made against female led PP government.
We have had the male folks in politics making remarks that mirror sexist attitudes which seek to dismiss women as undeserving and devoid of permits needed to take centre stage in politics.
This is a country that claims to be God fearing, and, to a certain extent, some have even cavalcaded the scriptural calligraphies as the supreme law. Sin, as an unholy act, has its spiritual place where it is believed to be subjected to rigorous scrutiny and no single human being has been entrusted with that kind of responsibility.
If God is the judge, it only makes sense not to bother and let others enjoy the freedoms that a democratic state offers them.
It is hypocrisy of the highest order to categorise a minority group as sinful because they are of different sexual orientation and let alone use the legislature to enact defective laws aimed at dealing with what is perceived as sin.
It is not my intention to overlook the hindsight of the authors of Malawian laws and the reasoning of the then state machinery that championed the enactment of such archaic laws. One truth that we all know is that such laws are sanctioned in total disregard of the fact that homosexuality exists in our society.
It is high time that we begin to understand the values of individualisation which espouse the need to recognise and understand each other’s uniqueness and seek to purposefully express our feelings whilst respecting emotional feelings of others.
We need to adopt non-judgemental attitudes in that people should be accepted as who they are and be treated with dignity and respect.
Going by the unconstructiveness of the debate on homosexuality in our country, it is quite clear that we have a section of our society which enjoys imposing their identities and feelings on others under the guise of pursuing the spiritual doctrine.
The inclusion of anti-homosexuality laws will remain a barrier to the development of our democracy and weneed to realise that we are attempting to deal with a petty issue thereby overlooking the many heinous social evils that permeate in our society.
We cannot keep on pretending as if we are incapable of purging ourselves of negative attitudes towards minority groups and it is disgusting to see individuals who advocated the change to multiparty democracy calling for marginalisation and persecution of minority groups in the country.
These are the very people that fought against one party rule and begged the international community to help them reclaim their liberties. It begs big questions that they now want to mobilise comparable mind-sets to call for mass demonstrations against repealing homophobic laws.
The prevailing situation suggests the need for such individuals to reconsider their values and temper their attitudes and behaviour accordingly.
We cannot truly conceive a democratic state if we allow the mainstream society to discriminate and persecute minority groups.
We need to understand that the church and state are two separate institutions of socialisation and that the former needs to focus on addressing the spiritual needs of its followers without being seen to use the sacred text as the justification for advocating oppressive laws.
*Thomson Nhlane is a Malawian scholar based in the United Kingdom and writes in his personal capacity.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :