Malawi campaigners say gays deserve ‘respect and compassion’

Malawians are being asked to treat those who have homosexual tendencies with respect and compassion, two leading rights groups said on Thursday.

Mrs Charity Salima, board member  of the technical working group for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), told media practitioners at a training workshop that homosexuals must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity, and that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

“Sexual minorities are there in Malawi,” said Salima at the media workshop in Liwonde township on sexual minority rights.

She said homosexuals “exist among us, some of them are our own brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties , friends and neighbours.”

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“We are all human beings regardless of who we love and what we do in the privacy of our homes. Our constitution is clear that all people should be treated the same regardless of colour, religion, ethnic origin or any other status,” said the rights campaigner.

Salima applied the holy scriptures to drive home her point, saying when Jesus said “love your neighbour,” there were on  conditions attached and included people of all sexual orientations .

She said the message of love should be spread “so that Malawi can become a better place for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or any other status.”

CHRRR and CEDEDP board member appealed to Malawians to consider gays and lesbians as “normal people” and that they should be respected “as our brothers and sisters and God’s children.”

She said homosexuals  in Malawi are “forced to live underground in order to escape persecution, harassment, ridicule, violence, police arrests and imprisonment.”

Salima said  many people practising homosexuality include  “ pastors, priests, chiefs, civil servants, or our MPs .”

According to Salima, the recent research had shown that HIV prevalence among Men who have Sex with fellow Men (MSM) in Malawi was at 21.4 percent

She said the homosexuals needs protection and care to access sex health treatment, pointing out that men who have sex with fellow men sometimes  marry and seek girlfriends (bi-sexual)”  just to hide their sexual orientation.”

Salima called on regions leaders to help overcome social stigma on gays and integrate them into society, saying they deserve sympathy, not separation.

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