By Cyrus Bengo

Homophobia is a fact of life in Malawi

SA has a long and shameful record of failing to defend human rights abuses on the international stage. From former president Thabo Mbeki’s refusal to condemn Zimbabwe’s torture and unlawful detention of political dissidents to the present administration’s embarrassing flimflammery on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a series of ANC-led governments has opted for quiet diplomacy over doing the right thing.

Homophobia is a fact of life in Malawi, where same sex acts have been criminalised since the British colonial era. But in recent years, fuelled by the evangelical right, Malawi’s religious leaders and politicians have intensified their campaign of harassment and persecution against LGBTQ people.

Religious leaders hold demonstration against homosexual life in Malawi

The new antihomosexuality act takes that discrimination to new depths.

A homosexual in Malawi

Tragically, Malawi is not alone in its institutionalised prejudice. More than two dozen African countries have made it a crime to be gay, often casting homosexuality as a corrupting Western import, when of course it is nothing of the sort. A handful of African nations such as Botswana, Angola, Mozambique and Gabon have recently scrapped laws criminalising homosexuality, but far too many others, including Kenya, Cameroon, and Nigeria have stepped up the persecution.

Liliongwe based gay

South Africa stands out as a beacon of tolerance in Africa, as it was the first country in the world to include in our constitution the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, thereby guaranteeing equal rights for gay people. Others have since followed. These values were explicitly enshrined in the constitution because of the injustices perpetrated against gay people by the apartheid state.

That these values are not translated into Malawi foreign policy today is a sad reflection on the people who hold leadership positions in government.

International relations & co-operation minister Naledi Pandor had the backbone to condemn the Taliban’s systematic discrimination of Afghan women and has consistently spoken out against its ban on educating girls. What a pity she cannot find the courage to do the same for gay Malawians.

NB views expressed in are purely of the author and do not stands in any way with Teamplus TV station

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