Remove prejudices against gays: Malawi activists react to Catholic stand

Malawi-renowned gay rights campaigner,  Gift Trapence has spoken against all prejudice, discrimination and hate crime on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) people.

Trapence writing jointly with rights campaigner Timothy Mtambo writing in their ‘Sexual Minority’ column in the Weekend Nation newspaper, urged for  fair and open society.

They were reacting to a communique signed by Catholic bishops from East and central African bishops who recently ended their Association of Member Episcopal Conference in East Africa –AMECEA- hosted by Malawi.

Gay couple: "A person's homosexuality shouldn't be a big deal
Gay couple: “A person’s homosexuality shouldn’t be a big deal

The bishops said they “strongly condemns same-sex unions and other deviations that go against human nature and natural law.”

But the rights campaigners  called for shift in public attitudes towards gay people so that they can come out and  experience reputational enhancement rather than damage.

Trapence and Mtambo in the newspaper article argued that the church “should be the last to condemn people who did not choose their homosexual condition.”

The authors, quoting the church’s catechism no 2358, notes that the “number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition, for most of them, it is a trial.

“They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives, and if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

Mtambo is head of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabiliation (CHRR) while Trapence is the executive director of the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), a human rights organization in Malawi – one of the few working with vulnerable groups like men who have sex with men (MSM), prisoners and sex workers.

The two rights campaigner said the Catholic Church’s catechism “emphasises acceptance and tolerance, not condemnation. It is therefore strange that our African bishops are ignoring this text and promoting discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

They argued that the “refusal to accept people with homosexual tendencies within the Church has led to unspeakable conflict, brief and death on our continent.”

The two activists also noted cases of homophobia, saying  gays are being “harassed, threatened and even physically assaulted simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Further, the activists argued that there is “good evidence that the HIV epidemic hits harder where anti-gay laws and prejudice exist. Voices of reason and goodwill must speak out against this hatred and irrationality.”

Catholic church’s stand after  the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) caused controversy when they called for gay people to be condemned to death, saying “even animals like goats don’t do this.”

MAM secretary General Dr Salmin Omar Idrussi  said “majority” of Malawians are  against legalising “this sinful act.”

“Even animals like goats don’t do this, what more with human beings like us who were blessed with wisdom by the Almighty God? The offenders need to be handed death penalty as a way of making sure that the issue is curbed,” Muslim cleric said.

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Malawi with custodial sentences of up to 14 years imprisonment.

However, there is debate on whether the country should change  scrap  laws that criminalises homosexuality.

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