The Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Arasa) has written the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to stop the idea of holding a public inquiry that is aimed to get the national views on whether or not Malawi should continue criminalizing same sex marriages.
Arasa is a regional network of civil society organization (CSOs) working with 115 CSOs in 18 countries in southern and eastern Africa to promote a human rights-based response to HIV and TB.
In the letter Arasa Director Michaela Clayton observes that while the network appreciates the objectives of the inquiry, it would discourage the use of a public inquiry to achieve these objective.
“Human rights are inalienable and their protection should not be determined by the vote of a majority,” she says.
The MHRC has suggested a public inquiry into the issue, a thing which some civil society organizations oppose.
Clayton suggests that while Arasa appreciate MHRC efforts in making life better for LGBTI people, the body would rather want to see the commission investigate abuses of key populations’ rights.
The letter was delivered to MHRC last week amidst tussling between the commission and several human rights defenders with some calling the inquiry to be stopped.
Clayton expresses fears that holding such an inquiry would only result in making life even harder for the key populations.
“It is hard for them, since access to healthcare is difficult for them as they fear to come up in the open fearing arrests. The right to health should be for all,” said Clayton.
In an interview, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) director Gift Transpence said human rights are not about public opinion.
“No matter how few people may be, we all have rights. We can’t subject the human rights of the minority in the hands of the majority,” he said.
MHRC could not immediately comment on the letter.
South Africa is currently hosting a conference in Johannesburg on key populations-sex workers, prisoners, people who use drugs and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people.
During her opening of the conference, Clayton said while most southern and eastern African countries continue criminalizing same sex marriages, this is not working and much remains to be done in the area as abuses for people who sleep with people of the same sex, like other key populations like sex workers, prisoners, (and) people who use drugs.
“Criminalization does not help in bringing down the numbers of the people. Otherwise, this negatively affects them as they go underground and cannot access healthcare,” said Clayton.
Most studies have disclosed that there is high correlation between HIV, Aids and human rights, especially for key populations.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :