Network faults faith community on discrimination against key population

Malawi Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected with HIV and Aids (MANERELA+) has faulted some eligious and community leaders who they say have contributed to the persistent homophobia, stigma and discrimination towards LGBTI all in other words members of key population across the globe.

MANERELA+ Programs Officer Harold Kachepatsonga

According to MANERELA+ Programs Officer Harold Kachepatsonga, the leaders continue to influence negative attitudes, perceptions among the communities.

He was speaking is Salima recently during an orientation workshop with religious and community leaders.

“We organized this workshop to ensure that Religious Leaders and Community leaders develop an understanding of human sexuality as a starting point for creating an enabling environment for key populations in Malawi. When we say key population we are talking of people who fall in LGBTI (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex) as well as sex workers” said Kachepatsonga.

He added that in most of African countries including Malawi, Religion and culture has been used to fuel homophobia globally arguing that ‘homosexuality; is not Religious and is against our culture.

“Religious and community Leaders are considered opinion leaders, role models and have a large constituency. Religious and community Leaders are looked unto to shape values, norms and the way we ‘perceive the world’, therefore, that is why we need to work with them because they are agents of change because their voice can easily be heard and taken into consideration,” said Kachepatsonga.

In 2015 at the UPR, Malawi as a member of the United Nations (UN) made a commitment to take effective measures to address issues of violence against LGBTI and improve LGBTI access to health services as well as drafting National HIV policy and strategic plan tackles issues of LGBTI.

However, to date, there is no systematic national level strategy to reduce violence against LGBTI and there is little attention to legal issues to assist LGBTI.

Lack of understanding among Religious and community Leaders on human
sexuality, human rights, gender among other things are regarded as some of
the factors fuelling stigma and discrimination against minority groups,
according to human rights activists.

In adequate funding to scale up interventions aimed at creating an enabling
environment for the LGBTI community is also another challenge.

“Through continuous awareness campaigns, capacity building, dialogue
meetings with Religious leaders and Traditional Leaders we can fight homophobia and change people’s perception towards LGBTI communities but we can only achieve this if we work together as a team,” concluded Kachepatsonga.

Speaking on behalf of fellow participants, one of the Pastors said religious leaders should not judge but rather do their work of ministering.

“There is no verse in the Bible that recommends same sex activities but rather there are several verses that condemn same sex activities and other sexual practices like adultery, prostitution, fornication, incest among others. Much as these texts and more others explicitly condemn same sex activities, there are however, several other things also which the Bible forbids but still are practiced in the church. On the other hand, there are also other things that are acceptable in the Bible but are not done and considered wrong in some churches” the Pastor said.

Meanwhile, MANERELA+ is expected to hold similar orientation meetings in other districts and cities such as Nkhotakota, Mzuzu, Zomba, Mangochi, Blantyre and Lilongwe.

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