Gay marriage: Malawi should get rid of outdated laws

At the recent AU Summit in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon brought up the issue of homophobia in the African leadership again. This was a clear sign that the international community is not leaving our gay community in the lurch. Something needs to happen.

It appears really strange that African leaders are so emotional and hell bent on prosecuting people for the way they were created. The comparison with the way Africans were treated in the times of the slave trade comes to mind.

Let’s take a look at the arguments that are brought up for the prosecution of people for being gay. They broadly fall into three categories: Unnatural, unafrican and unchristian/Islamic. (The combination of the last two arguments is very interesting because Christianity and Islam are unafrican in themselves and recently introduced from the outside. Non of these three arguments hold any water.

Unnatural: Apart from the question why you would not prosecute people for such unnatural acts as using a Nokia phone or a Mercedes car, there is overwhelming evidence for homosexuality in the animal kingdom (Bruce Bagemihl 1999, Simon Levay 1996).

The omission of it from scientific reports was the hetero normative bias of the researchers, not the lack of homosexual behaviour among animals.

Un African: This is very strange, there is plenty of evidence for homosexual behaviour (as in men having sex with men, and women having sex with women) in Africa from a long, long time back (Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe 1998, E E Evans Pritchard, 1999).

The first recorded homosexual relationship was in Africa (Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, Egypt, 2400 BC). It was on the contrary the coloniser that brought homophobia into Africa. When we were colonised the English lived under the Victorian morals, which are notoriously anti gay. And they introduced it, together with their repressive forms of Christianity.

Just when the British were liberating themselves from these outdated notions, we were getting a dictator who has lived in England for a long time, and who had totally absorbed these anti homosexuality norms, Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

He kept them up, until we started to believe these colonial norms were Malawian! Nonsense! In Malawi, we are a least developed country, and the kind of religion we get goes with it. Our churches are very conservative, and while world wide many churches make no trouble over homosexuality, ours stay behind, and cling fanatically to outdated standards.

Jesus himself never spoke out against homosexuality. The quoted source is usually Leviticus, a minor Old Testament prophet who condemns eating pork and wearing clothes made from more than one kind of fibre just as strongly. We don’t jail people for eating pork or wearing these clothes, so it is strange to pick on homosexuals like that.

The question is: why would people go to such lengths and be so emotional over homosexuality. A homosexual relationship harms no one. We are talking people who do nothing worse than love. Love is the central message of Christianity, not pay back or tit-for-tat. There is no reason to burden an overstretched judicial system and police system and overcrowded jails with people who make no victim, just loving each other.

Another problem seems to be in the language. In Malawi, the word marrying is sometimes used as a euphemism for sex. But gay marriage is about something else. In no developed country anyone can go to jail for homosexuality. In the US there is a bit of an issue about gay marriage in this sense that the US law grants certain privileges to married couples. This is about inheritance, tax breaks, and the right to adopt a child. And that’s where certain underdeveloped US states do not recognise gay marriage. Never will they arrest a person for being gay, only these privileges are withheld from gay couples in certain states.

All in all it is quite strange to spend our scarce resources on prosecuting people who are causing no harm. Let’s get rid of these outdated and unconstitutional laws (the constitution includes human rights). Thank you for keeping the issue on the agenda Ban.

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