Traditional Authority Kuntaja of Blantyre has appealed to government to let traditional and faith community leaders to handle the issue of same sex marriage other than parliamentarians.
“This is a cultural issue and not one which parliamentarians should waste time discussing. The country has a lot of problems which need their attention other than this alien cultural issue,” said the T/A at a Blantyre District Candle Light Memorial Ceremony at Khombwe Primary School on Wednesday.
The T/A noted: “Some civil society organizations who are advocating for same sex marriage legalization just want to brain wash us for their selfish gains. Same sex marriages are not part of our culture.”
T/A Kuntaja pointed out that the issue of same sex marriage is so new in our society so that Malawians should not be carried away with a thing which has never existed even during the era of our forefathers, adding that it will just lead the nation astray.
The remarks comes after President Joyce Banda has announced her intention to repeal a number of laws that have made Malawi into a pariah state, from its ban on homosexuality to broad police powers of search and arrest, to a law that allows cabinet ministers to shut down newspapers.
The repeal of the ban on homosexuality and on same-sex marriages may appeal to foreign donors, but it would be a deeply unpopular move for many Malawians, who regard homosexuality to be a sin and, as Malawi’s colonial-laws call it, “an unnatural act.”
Among the strongest views come from Malawi’s powerful evangelical community. Billy Mayaya of the Church and Society, a social and development wing of the Church of the Central Africa Presbyterian [CCAP] of Nkhoma Synod in Lilongwe, says that President Banda should consult with citizens before making such a drastic change in Malawian law.
“There is need for proper consultation before the law if referred back to the Malawi Law Society and then Parliament,” says Mayaya. “Malawians need to be consulted. Over the years, the church has also made its stand on this sticky issue very clear. I feel Malawians have the right to discuss what constitutes different sexual orientations before a law is put in place.”
The Nkhoma Synod, in a pastoral letter, wrote that the Bible condemns homosexuality.
“It is biblically and culturally an evil that dehumanizes people and provokes God’s wrath,” the Synod’s pastoral letter reads. “We advise our members to categorically refrain from such a practice and advocate its termination from our society. We stand in solidarity with the majority of Malawians who equally condemn the practice of homosexuality.”
The opposition party, People’s Transformation [Petra] party says that decriminalizing homosexuality would be a “grave mistake.” “We therefore urge Members of Parliament, faith leaders, Christians, and Muslims to resist any intention directly or indirectly to legalize same sex marriages,” says Petra president Kamuzu Chibambo
Malawi’s erstwhile donors, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement by Banda.
Speaking during Norway’s Constitutional Day in Lilongwe, Norway’s ambassador to Malawi, Asbjorn Eidhammer, said that all governments bear the responsibility to protect people who are different from the majority, both from prosecution and from persecution.
“Norway urges all governments to take steps to eliminate stigma and discrimination faced by people at risk,” Ambassador Eidhammer said.
Human rights perspective
Human rights activist Undule Mwakasungura also welcomed Banda’s promised repeals.
“As it is now, the laws are infringing on minority groups such as gays because of their sexual orientation,” said Mwakasungura, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. “Gays are human beings just like any other person. Why should they suffer because of their sexual orientation? As custodians of human rights we welcome this move to repeal the law.”
But to sell the repeal of the anti-gay law to ordinary Malawians, President Banda will have her work cut out for her.
David Mulyasanga, a Blantyre based worker and self-described Christian, says he would find offensive any law that legalizes homosexuality.
“It is something that most Malawians will have problems to accept,” says Mulyasanga. “People ask questions each time they see two young men or young ladies living together for more than two years. The general notion is that a man should marry a woman at some point in life not a man marrying a fellow man or a woman tying a knot with a fellow woman.” –(Additional reporting by Joseph Kayira, Christian Science Monitor)Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :