Malawi govt rejects anti-gay law advanced by Muslims

Malawi’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Fahad Assani, has trashed calls by the Muslims Association of Malawi (MAM) to toughen the punishment for homosexual acts to include death penalty.

MAM general secretary Shiek Salmim Omar Idruss said those convicted of homosexual acts should face a death penalty and not 14 years jail as the law states now.

Idruss argued that capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality.

Assani: Rejects 'kill the gays' plea
Assani: Rejects ‘kill the gays’ plea

However, Assani said pushing such a law there will be an international outcry, which could see some countries suspend aid to the country.

Speaking in a telephone interview with Nyasa Times, Assani said Malawi is a democratic country and cannot promote homophobia and impose death penalty on gays.

He said at the meantime UNAids, the Malawi Law Society and Malawian rights groups have asked the High Court to overturn as unconstitutional laws banning same-sex relationships.

They also challenge the convictions of three men jailed in 2011.

The three men convicted in 2011 by a Magistrate’s court in Blantyre are Amon Champyunu, Mathews Bello and Mussa Chiwisi .All are serving long jail term ranging from 10 to 14 years.

But Supreme Court of Appeal has granted Government a stay order stopping proceedings of the matter.

“Malawi is a democratic country and we cannot promote death penalty on minority groups. We have the death penalty in the constitution but since we voted for multiparty in 1994 no single president has implemented that,” said Assani, a devout Moslem himself.

He said after the May 20 general elections, the issue of gay rights will be fully debated and Malawians will be allowed to vote on whether the country should regalise same-sex marriage.

Speaking in an interview activist George Thindwa blamed the Muslims of promoting homophobia, saying their call was unacceptable in a modern society.

“Human beings have progressed well enough to avoid making such proclamations speeches. Homosexuals are human beings and should be treated with respect and dignity as we want to be treated ourselves. What would Muslims say if one said Muslims should be killed because of them being Muslims?” wondered Thindwa.

Thindwa further said that “Muslims should respect the constitution and not give us the mumbo jumbo of their Koran. We are not interested to be subjected to their beliefs. In secular state – human beings come first.”

Social activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire said MAM noted that Muslims call would be stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation

In Malawi, homosexuality became contentious in 2009, when two men were arrested and charged with public indecency for getting married in a traditional ceremony.

In May 2012, President Joyce Banda initially pledged to repeal the laws, but later declared that Malawi was “not ready” to decriminalise homosexuality.

Enforcement of anti-gay laws was temporarily halted in November 2012, when then-Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara directed arrests to stop, pending a debate in parliament.

However, after a fierce reaction from churches and lobbying groups, enforcement of the laws was reinstated a fews days later.—(Additional reporting by Thom Chiumia, Nyasa Times)

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