Two human rights organisations, Centre for Development of the People (Cedep) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) with support from an American based organisation, Benetech, have launched a report on human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity which indicates a wave of intense homophobia is washing across Malawi .
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The report which has a few of the documented cases from eight districts across the country, gives a face to the human rights violations that are happening to the Lesbians, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Inter-sex persons (LGBTI) community in Malawi.
Speaking during the official launch of the report in the capital Lilongwe on Tuesday, the United States of America (USA) Charge d’ Affairs, Mike Gonzales said it was important to shed light on abuses of human rights that exist in our societies.
“If we bring these issues to the public eye we can begin the process of ending future abuses, bringing justice to the victims and holding the perpetrators to account,” he said.
He said the abuses which are inflicted based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity are not acceptable.
Gonzales, however, expressed worry over increased cases of abuses experienced by minority groups not only in Malawi but across the African continent.
The American envoy commended the two human rights organisations, Cedep and CHRR for their integrity and humanity in documenting the cases and giving a voice to the victims.
Gift Trapence, executive director of the Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep), an organisation that champions sexual minority rights, said there is no problem with consenting adults of the same sex having sex in private.
Trapence said the report was a reflection of what the sexual minority groups experience in their day to day life, the life defined by inequality, exclusion, violence, name calling, physical and emotional abuse.
“We believe that these abuses are fuelled by the punitive laws in our penal code that have always stirred up homophobia and have had very toxic effects on people’s lives shattering self-esteem, increasing marginalisation and creating huddles for the LGDTI individuals to access legal, health and other related social services,” he said.
He said time has come for the government and its stakeholders to break the silence on how they look at gender-based violence issues and stand up to publicly condemn and make it clear that violence on any grounds including sexual orientation is unacceptable.
Trapence appealed to the government to introduce laws that can protect all Malawians equally regardless of their sexual orientation at the same time introduce mechanism to monitor cases of violence against LGBTI.
However, the report will be used as a strong evidence base for effective advocacy, public awareness and social change efforts.
In 2009 a gay couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were arrested and convicted 14 years for publicly wedding.
But former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them following an outcry from the international community.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi based on remnants of sodomy laws introduced during the British colonial era. The laws are perpetuated by cultural and religious beliefs.
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