Tag Archives: Malawi

QAR Weekly News

  • Another South African Lesbian MurderThis morning (10/11/2012) I received a call from Ndumie Funda the founder and Director of Lulekisizwe a project that nurses, supports and feeds the lesbian bisexual and trans woman (LBT) in townships who are victims and survivors of “corrective rape”, whom I had just seen the day before and we were just talking about the current situation facing the LGBTI community in Cape Town especially in the townships. Funda sounded stressed and in shock over the phone when she asked me to get the word out about the murder of Sihle Skotshi (19) who was an active member of Lulekisizwe. Later I met up with Funda and  had an opportunity to interview the two survivors of the attack who were with Sihle when she died.tags: Queer Politics, LGBTI Africa, South Africa, Sexual Violence


  • Malawian Anti-Gay Laws under review, suspendedGoing against a trend in Africa, Malawi’s government is moving to suspend laws against homosexuality and has ordered police not to arrest people for same-sex acts until the anti-gay laws are reviewed by parliament.Human Rights Watch called the decision “courageous” and said it should inspire other countries that criminalize homosexuality.Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara last week told a public debate on minority rights that the police have been ordered not to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in homosexuality. Anyone convicted under Malawi’s anti-gay laws, some of the toughest in the world, can get up to 14 years in jail with hard labor. Kasambara said parliament will soon discuss the laws. 

My Zimbabwean Sheroes: Amy Tsanga

Radical, somewhat rebellious, robust-those were my first impressions of this woman when I first met her. Then I was a naïve-mousey thing, studying for my undergraduate degree in law. I observed how she had embraced her feminine self and African-ness yet she had also surpassed societal stereotypes of who an African woman is and what she can be. Here was a woman who lived through an era when the education of girls was not a priority yet she had done it and done it well too. She was my lecturer and I idolised her or was it, uh, hero-worshipping. Gentle, yet firm, she spoke so eloquently and confidently and we all hung onto her every word. She reinforced my conviction that women’s rights are human rights; as inalienable, indivisible an interdependent as any other right in relation to other rights. And from then on I have been fighting relentlessly for the empowerment of women and the realisation of their human rights.

Dr Amy Tsanga

Her name is Amy Shupikai Tsanga, but I, like many others who have had personal contact with her, like calling her Dr T. Maybe I may be blowing my horn too loudly, but I would like to think (an impression which I hold to date) that we took an instant liking to each other. Over the years she has become more than just my lecturer, she is my mentor, my (free) career guidance consultant, my friend, my big sister and my role model.

One cannot talk of women, law, gender and education without mentioning Dr T.

She earned her Ph.D. in Law from the University of Zimbabwe in 1998, a certificate in Law and Development from the University of Warwick (UK) in 1991, a Diploma in Women’s Law from the University of Oslo, and a BL/LLB in Law from the University of Zimbabwe in 1986. During her undergraduate studies she received the university Book Prize as the best Law student in 1985. She was also a Fulbright Scholar and visited the University of San Diego in 2010 as part of the Fulbright Scholars’ Occasional Lecturer Program.

Currently, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Zimbabwe and the Deputy Director of the Southern and Eastern African Regional Centre for Women’s Law (SEARCWL)  famously known as the Women’s Law Centre, Dr T is a woman of outstanding achievements. The Women’s Law Centre is popular for its excellence in gender, women’s studies and the law. As a lecturer she is responsible for teaching the modules in women’s law and the law of succession for undergraduate Law students (which she taught me and ably so too). She also teaches numerous courses on the regional masters in Women’s Law which is designed to bring students from Southern and Eastern Africa to pursue studies in women’s law. So far the Masters has pooled students from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, DRC, Botswana, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

She has an outstanding record as an academic, challenging the patriarchal system and advocating legal systems and processes that correspond with the lived realities of women as full citizens. Her many publications in the areas of violence against women, women and development, human rights and gender are evidence of her academic prowess. Among her publications is the book ‘Taking Law to the People: Gender, Law Reform and Community Legal Education in Zimbabwe’ which explores the myriad of challenges that organisations face in transmitting the law to the people on the ground.

’She also co-edited with Anne Hellum, Julie Stewart and Shaheen Sardar Ali the publication ‘Human rights, plural legalities and gendered realities-Paths are made by walking,’ which addresses the failure of human rights norms at the national, regional and international levels to afford ordinary citizens at the grassroots the projected human rights benefits and protections. Her featured articles in that publication are entitled “Reconceptualising the role of legal information dissemination in the context of legal pluralism in African settings’ and ‘The widows and female child’s portion: The twisted path to partial equality for widows and daughters under customary law in Zimbabwe,’ the latter which she co authored with Professor Julie Stewart.

She featured the article ‘Dialoguing Culture and Sex: Reflections from the Field’ in the Pambazuka publication ‘African Sexualities: A Reader.’ She also authored ‘Women and law: innovative approaches to teaching, research and analysis’ together with Professor Julie Stewart. The book looks into the manner in which legal teaching methods can be tailored to engage and explore women’s experiences with the law in various legal disciplines.

Dr T also designed together with Ige Olatokumbo a Manual entitled ‘A Paralegal Trainer’s Manual for Africa’ which is a publication with the International Commission of Jurists. She was featured in the African Yearbook of International Law with article such as ‘Moving Beyond Rights in the Realisation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Challenges in Contemporary Africa.’

As a gender activist Dr T has played a pivotal role in influencing legal, policy and institutional reforms to ensure gender equality. She sat on the Board of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association as its Chairperson from 1998 to 2001. ZWLA provides legal assistance to indigent women. She is an award jury member on the Body Shop Human Rights Award, an award that was set up to give recognition to groups working in the field of socio-economic rights and other fields of human rights that are usually not recognised. She was also board member of the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights from 1995 to 1999. Since 2005 she has sat on the board of Musasa Project, a Zimbabwean organisation that challenges and addresses violence against women and since 2010 sits on the board of the Institute of Creative Arts for Development in Zimbabwe.

In July 2010 she briefed Parliament on how to ensure a democratic and inclusive Constitution for Zimbabwe that addresses gender equality. In that briefing she emphasised the importance of an inclusive constitution-making process; the expansion of grounds for non-discrimination; improving women’s participation in politics and decision-making; ensuring women’s equal status before the law and in marriage; and a proper enforcement of the Bill of Rights as some of the prerequisites for achieving gender equality in Zimbabwe.

For all her outstanding work Dr T received the national Women’s Human Rights Defenders Award in 2009.
I always look at her and admire the dexterity with which she has mastered the art of methodologies, which happens to be one of my biggest nightmares. The vivacity with which she pursues the empowerment of women is beyond words. And that is the story of one of the women in the women’s rights movement in Zimbabwe whom I admire verily.

*This article was first published as part of the Feminist Chronicles on Madubesbrainpot

The West, Aid & Development

A recent post on the Nigerian blog Nigerian Curiosity is a stark reminder of how Western imperialism continues to interfere in the governance of independent African states. The post reports that Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, has asked the US to help in its fight to end corruption in the country by compiling a list of Nigerians to be banned from entering the US.

‘The list stems from the Corruption Proclamation 7750 which allows the USgovernment to suspend and prevent entry of foreigners engaged in or benefiting from corruption. The law was initiated by former President George W Bush and renewed by current President Obama. Corruption Proclamation 7750 was used to ban former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, and his entire family, from entering the U.S.in 2006.’

As the blogger points out, whilst Nigeria has lost $89 billion over the past 38 years through stolen public funds, by inviting the US to tackle the country’s corruption Nigeria remains in ‘servitude mode’ and to some extent removes the responsibility of fighting corruption away from the Nigerian government to foreigners. The recent case of James Ibori, former governor of Delta State who was arrested in Dubai, is another case of leaving foreign governments to deal with Nigeria’s problems. Ibori’s former mistress and personal aid were recently convicted in London for assisting Ibori in laundering billions of Naira stolen from Delta State. He was also declared a ‘wanted’ person by the country’s anti-corruption Economics and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) after failing to appear before the Commission. The question of how a wanted man with such a high profile was able to leave the country remains unanswered by the Commission and the government.

In what a top security source described as “embarrassing,” a combined team of the Nigerian police and EFCC officials could not arrest Ibori – who for a time was holed up in his country home in Oghara, Delta State. “The scandal is that Chief Ibori enjoys support from various top brass of Nigeria’s security agencies,” said the source, a senior official of the State Security Service (SSS) in Abuja. “That’s why he always received information about the plans to arrest him. And that information gave him the edge to mobilize heavily armed thugs who fought to protect him,” added the source.’

Both these cases illustrate an unwillingness on the part of the government to take seriously the issue of corruption, particularly at the very top level of Federal and State government. If the US is able to compile a list of corrupt officials, why can’t the Nigerian government prepare the same list and put a travel ban and indict those concerned?
Many African countries are celebrating between 45 and 50 years of independence in 2010 yet continue to allow foreign governments to intervene in national affairs or act as a proxy police force. The recent case of Malawian couple Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga who were sentenced to 14 years’ hard labour for daring to get married is one such case. Following a continental and international campaign to ‘free’ the couple, they were given a pardon by the Malawian Prime Minister after he spoke with UNSecretary General, Ban Ki Moon. Whilst I and many, many others were relieved to hear they are now free, the fact remains that an intervention was made which compromises the Malawian legal process and worse does nothing towards changing an unjust law.

‘Others have already asked what is the meaning of this for the rule of law and independence of the judiciary when people who have been convicted in a court of law, using a valid law, are released because the voices seeking their release have more power and money. They argue after all, that Steven and Tiwonge were convicted in a court for violating the law and if there was dissatisfaction about the trial then Malawian courts should have been petitioned and the matter should have been dealt with in that fora.

Stepping outside of Malawi, questions are asked on why neo-imperialism is able to triumph in this manner long after the continent has struggled to free itself from the bonds of colonialism and imperialism.’

The relationship between development aid and military aid is another example – a more covert one – of foreign intervention in African affairs where aid monies are given with one hand and transferred back to the West through military spending. Notwithstanding the whole debate around aid as contributing to Africa’s problems. For example, at the recent G8-G20 meeting in Canada the promise to increase aid by an extra $25 billion to $50 billion was cut to an $11 billion increase and a $38 billion overall amount. Stephen Lewis, co-director of Aids-Free World commented in the UK Guardian that increasing spending on maternal/child health at the expense of AIDS as if the latter does not impact on other health issues is yet another betrayal of Africa.

‘I see no point in beating around the bush. In the United States, the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is being flat-lined, for at least the next two years. That this should happen under President Obama seems inconceivable. It not only negates the pledge that the President (and Hillary Clinton) made during the campaign; it even fails to take advantage of the willingness of Congress to support extra funding.

Worse, the rationale hides behind intellectual sophistry. The argument is that AIDShas had too much money, and additional funds should go to other health imperatives like maternal and child health. No one in his or her right mind would argue with broader financial support for all aspects of global health. But to diminish the dollars that might be available for AIDS, rather than enlarging the financial pie overall is so wrong-headed as to defy rational analysis.’

At the same time as monies for AIDS and the overall aid is being reduced, militarization of the continent continues as military spending through AFRICOM is on the increase.

‘In its FY 2011 budget request for security assistance programs for Africa, the Obama administration is asking for $38 million for the Foreign Military Financing programme to pay for US arms sales to African countries.

The administration is also asking for $21 million for the International Military Education and Training Program to bring African military officers to the United States, and $24.4 million for Anti-Terrorism Assistance programs in Africa.’

These increases do not include 40 tons of weapons and training for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia; a security package for Mali of $4.5 million; proposed additional funds for securing the Gulf of Guinea and for Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

‘We seek to enhance Nigeria’s role as a US partner on regional security, but we also seek to bolster its ability to combat violent extremism within its borders.’

Also in February 2010, US Special Forces troops began a $30 million, eight-month-long training programme for a 1,000-man infantry battalion of the army of the DRC at the US-refurbished base in Kisangani.

We see a trend not just of neo-colonialism but one which moves towards re-colonization. And if we add to this the purchase of huge tracts of African land for agriculture by Middle East countries and China, the people of Africa are being betrayed once again.

Laws that criminalise same sex intimacy are making a mockery of our democracies.

Like many others around the world, I was elated when I heard that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were to be released from their 14 year prison sentence following a pardon by Malawian President, wa Mutharika.   According to most reports, the President was finally persuaded to pardon the couple after a “conversation” with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.

According to a member of the U.N. delegation who spoke to the Times but asked to remain anonymous, “The secretary general told the president rather strongly that the current controversy was having a negative effect on Malawi’s reputation and obscuring the progress it had made in other spheres.

However,  from President wa Mutharika’s  statement it is evident that the decision was a reluctant one and he made it very clear that he remained steadfast in his belief that the court’s ruling was the right one.

“I have decided that with effect from today, they are pardoned and they will be released,”   These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” said the Malawi President…..“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”…  “I have done this on humanitarian grounds but this does not mean that I support this.”

The decision to pardon rather than allow the Malawian legal process to take it’s own course in the matter raises concerns about the” autonomy and sovereignty” of African states.  How can we claim justice has been done when the law used to convict the couple has not been successfully challenged?  On the other hand how can we not cheer and feel relieved that Steven and Tiwonge are free no matter what the circumstances?   Human Right’s lawyer, Sibongile Ndashe  has to reconcile the nature of the pardon which was given under the threat of  denial of aid by western powers; the culpability of the west in the making of the law;  and her own personal feelings of joy at the decision.

Why is this law the law?

Wa Mutharika’s decision to pardon Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga will no doubt evoke a mixed response from those who see this as a triumph of human rights and those who see his decision as succumbing to international pressure and donor coercion. Others have already asked what is the meaning of this for the rule of law and independence of the judiciary when people who have been convicted in a court of law, using a valid law, are released because the voices seeking their release have more power and money. They argue after all, that Steven and Tiwonge were convicted in a court for violating the law and if there was dissatisfaction about the trial then Malawian courts should have been petitioned and the matter should have been dealt with in that fora.
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Steven and Tiwonge PARDONED

In a massive turn around  the President of Malawi has pardoned Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20 and ordered their immediate release no doubt that he has submitted to pressure from within Africa and internationally.  A real snub to the likes of Obasanjo and Bahati etc.

Mr Mutharika, speaking as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Lilongwe, said he had ordered their immediate release.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were given 14-year jail terms after being convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

The case has sparked international condemnation and a debate about homosexuality in the country.

Mr Ban said he welcomed the president’s decision.

Correspondents say Malawi is a deeply conservative society where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism.

Mr Mutharika, who has in the past dismissed homosexuality as alien, said he had set them free on humanitarian grounds.

This is the second good news of the day as the Ugandan government has promised not to pursue any additional penalities against LGBTI people

Single story homophobia and gay imperialism revisted

Two excellent articles by Keguro Macharia [Gukira]. The First was published on  Kenya Imagine and is a response to an article on homophobia in Africa by Madeline Bunting in which she attempts to explain “African Homophobia”.. Keguro’s criticism first points to her claim that the West should “rightly” be concerned and hugely angry about homophobia in Africa.

Being “rightly” concerned is, as far as I can tell, a full time occupation where Africa is concerned. To be western, Bunting suggests, is to have “the right” to be concerned and angry about what happens in Africa. 40 years after African’s independence from colonialism, I remain puzzled at what gives “the west” any rights over Africa. And because I am an intellectual, I wonder at Bunting’s need to posit an autonomous “west” against a knowable “Africa,” even after more than 30 years of scholarship that has emphasized the cross-hybridization of these two spaces.

Keguro goes on to question the source of Bunting’s “authoritative voice” considering  she makes no attempt to seek out scholarly voices such as his and Canadian Marc Epprecht and those of others easily accessible online with a little effort and Google.

Given the article’s authoritative tone, I would have assumed that, at the very least, Bunting would take the time to read the body of activist and scholarly work available on African homosexualities and African homophobia, much of which lives online. Had she bothered, she might have found the long-standing website Behind the Mask, which offers a range of resources and reports on Africa. She might have discovered the erudite scholar writer Sokari Ekine whose blog is a historical and scholarly resource. A little digging might have turned up Feminist Africa , which has devoted special issues to questions of sexuality in Africa, including a moving article by Uganda-based professor Sylvia Tamale .

If Bunting had cared to actually study her subject, she might have discovered scholarly monographs by South African  Neville Hoad and Canadian Marc Epprecht, both of which offer nuanced, historically grounded analyses of homosexual and homophobic practices and discussions in Africa.

In the second piece published in  yesterday’s  Guardian, he challenges the notion that homophobia in Africa  is somehow unique and that homophobia exists in continental or regional forms.  In reality there is no single story.   In answer to the question “how do we account for what APPEARS TO BE  the intensification of homophobia in Africa?” he provides two examples, one from Kenya where the first mass attack against gay men took place recently.  Unlike the usual reports in the Western media where Africans are presented as passive and unengaged, Keguro  names local activists organisations and their responses…..

So what has changed? Activist organisations such as Minority Women in Action (MWA), Transgender Education and Advocacy (TEA) and Gay Kenya have been established and run educational workshops across the country. As with other human rights groups in Kenya, their efforts have been met with mixed reactions, ranging from acceptance to indifference to hatred. Their increased visibility has led to increased vulnerability, a trajectory shared by progressive organisations across the world.

The second example he uses is the  marriage of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza and again challenges the “unique” single story…

To grasp the Malawi case, we need to understand the meaning of the engagement ceremony chinkhoswe. Chinkhoswe certifies marriages in the eyes of the law and also creates stable ideas about gender. It is worth noting that Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a woman, so this case is also about transgender politics.

Notably, despite some gains in gay marriage in the west, transgender politics remain contested. Without a locally based understanding, rooted in a history of Malawi and a grasp of its cultural politics, we cannot comprehend what is at stake in the case. Discussions that frame the case as Malawians opposing westernisation tell only a very partial story.

Last week British Gay activist Peter Tatchell published HIS response to the sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza in which he, in the style of the single story, reduces homophobia in Africa to a simplistic colonialist and passive explanation.

Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition, they are not African at all. Despite independence, these alien criminalisations were never repealed.

Today, the minds of many Malawians — and other Africans — remain colonised by the homophobic beliefs that were drummed into their forebears by the western missionaries who invaded their lands alongside the conquering imperial armies.

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Zuma’s condemnation of Malawi – where is it?

President Jacob Zuma responds to calls for him to condemn the sentencing of Malawian couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza.  Apparently we must have missed the SA government statement which cannot be located but was said!    He needs to do more than condemn the sentence and he knows this – this is shallow and unconvincing.

South Africa President Jacob Zuma has condemned Malawi’s imprisonment of two gay men who publicly announced their intention to marry.

Zuma has been under fire from civic and religious groups for failing to speak out against the persecution of the two men recently jailed for 14 years for conducting a homosexual relationship in violation of the country’s anti-gay laws.

But he told MPs while answering questions in parliament that South Africa had condemned the prosecution, saying members of the national assembly must have missed the statement.

“Why are you and your government, completely silent on this despicable homophobic assault on the human rights and dignity of our brothers and sisters across Africa,” Democratic Alliance MP Dion George asked.

Zuma said South Africa had spoken out against the arrest and trial of the two men, but no such statement could be found in a quick internet search as he spoke.

“I don’t think we have kept quiet, so we are with you on this issue as representing the country and the continent. We are working hard to change attitudes and we will continue to do so.

“We have condemned the action taken to arrest people in terms of our constitution because our constitution says so. We have stated the views of this country contained in the constitution,” Zuma said.

Protests marches calling for the release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga will be held in London and New York on Saturday 29th at 1 and 2pm respectively.  London: outside the Malawian High Commission 70 Winnington Road, London N2 OTX and NY – 866 United Nations Plaza

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How can we speak about an African Renaissance when some people are being excluded from what it means to be an African

The Abahlali baseMjondolo Youth League statement on AFRICA DAY includes a statement on the conviction and sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga for 14 years hard labour. So far Abahali baseMjondolo are the only non-LGBTI / HIV/AIDS specific movement / organisation to issue a solidarity statement against the conviction of Steven and Tiwonge and LGBTI people across the continent.

It is this idea, the idea that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, an idea that is also there in the Freedom Charter of 1955, that we have to hold on to when there is any discussion of who is an African.

This is the 5th year in which South Africa is holding the African Renaissance Festival in Durban. Africa and Africans have been discriminated for a long time and it is good that Africa and Africans are now celebrated. But can we speak about an African Renaissance when some people are being excluded from what it means to be an African in South Africa?

As we speak there is a case that is pending in Durban whereby one ANC councillor was involved in the attacking of the immigrants that came to South Africa to seek refuge. Is South Africa the best place to host this event, bearing in mind the way people from the African continent are being treated in this county? Is our government doing enough to protect our African brothers and sisters? As far as we know we are not because even those who are supposed to protect them are the very first people to torture them and arrest them if they don’t give them money. Where is Africa, where is the spirit of Ubuntu in all this? Is being African to be defined by colour, race, gender, class or nationality?

What happened to the idea that South Africa belongs to all who live in it? What happened to the idea that Africa belongs to all who live in it? What happened to the idea that our heroes should be those that fight for the full inclusion of everyone and never those that fight to exclude some people?

Right now two Malawian gays have been sentenced for 14 years for coming out. None of the African heads of state have stepped forward to condemn this doing of the Malawi government. When we ask why it seems that the answer is because they all believe that ‘being Gay is unAfrican’. But there are many Gay people in Africa and therefore it cannot be ‘unAfrican to be Gay’.

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Homophobia divides, working class solidarity unites: SAMWU statement of solidarity with Malawian LGBTI

Homophobia divides, working class solidarity unites -South African Municipal Workers Union calls on SADC to act.
STILL why the silence from academics, womens movements, landrights movements particularly those in the SADC region? This is a disgrace on their behalf – people who call themseloves progressives and feminists but remain silent on the verdict and sentencing of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

20th May 2010.

SAMWU has become increasingly concerned by the homophobic utterances of several national leaders on the continent over the last few years. Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Museveni in Uganda and a few others have made intolerable comments about the rights of consenting adults to engage in a same sex relationship. One has to ask what is it exactly that irks these ‘revolutionary’ leaders? What are they afraid of? However recent events in Malawi have surpassed even these levels of ignorance and prejudice.

News has just been received that a court in Blantyre has convicted Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga for committing so-called “unnatural acts”. Steven and Tiwonge were arrested in December 2009 after celebrating their engagement and have been in jail ever since. They face up to 14 years in jail, even though the only ‘crime’ that they have committed is to admit to being partners.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not permitted under the South African Constitution, and South Africans should be immensely proud of this progressive tract.

However, it is not enough to simply be proud of a seminal document that helps to define the nature of our society. Our leaders here in SA, and elsewhere who support a tolerant and democratic continent must not only praise our Constitution, but share its wisdom, and promote and defend the universal rights that it enshrines.

With this in mind, we call upon the SADC countries and the African Union to disassociate themselves from the judgement that has been made in Malawi, and further to urge the immediate release of the two individuals concerned, for all charges to be dropped, and for a complete review of colonial homophobic legislation. We also call for an end to police and media harassment of minorities that serves no purpose but to encourage division and misery. This is the very least that should be done at this time.
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Act against the conviction of Malawian gay couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

On Tuesday, 18th of May 2010, a court in Blantyre, Malawi Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts. The couple were arrested in December 2009 after celebrating their engagement and had their bail applications denied. They have been in jail ever since and have been given a brutal and completely unjust 14 year sentence with hard labour setting a dangerous precedent across the region. The arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga is part of an increasing attempt by some African governments to silence lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender people and to send us back into the closet – This will never happen! In a press statement Phumi Mtetwa of the Gay & Lesbian Equality spoke out against the verdict. …….

The increasing incitement, in multiple African countries especially Zimbabwe, Malawi and Uganda, against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is a gross violation of human rights. Homophobic laws are being used as political decoys by politicians instead of facing the real problems of poverty and declining standards of living on the continent. The door has been opened to reverse and retard a post-colonial progress on all human rights. Human rights can only be ensured through an unwavering commitment to equality, freedom and justice for all. The South African government, as the only state in Africa to recognise equality for sexual minorities, must be called to defend the South African constitution by offering asylum to the two men convicted in Malawi and negotiating their immediate release from prison.

The South African government, as the only state in Africa to recognise equality for sexual minorities, must be called to defend the South African constitution by offering asylum to the two men convicted in Malawi and negotiating their immediate release from prison.

We should also be wary of those voices in the international community that seek to racialise the homophobic actions of some African political and religious leaders, knowing fully well that homophobia is a global issue and remains entrenched in religious fundamentalism. We need to stop harping back to what was during the colonial period and focus on what is happening now whether this be the origins of homophobia or whether homosexuality existed here or there. The fact is they exist today and homophobia should not be used as a ruse for neo-coloniaist civilizing missions anymore than for “political decoys” for real problems that we face on the continent such as poverty. But more importantly the focus should be on the struggle to free Steven and Tiwonge and to ensure this never happens to anyone else

In another a statement the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission [IGLHRC] – Cape Town made the following comment on the case

“This harsh sentence compounds the impact of an already unjust conviction,” said Chivuli Ukwimi, IGLHRC Health and Human Rights Officer. “Its devastating effect on Steven and Tionge is just the beginning. It will endanger lives by driving at-risk communities underground, beyond the reach of programs to address HIV and AIDS.”

In his ruling, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa stated, “The engagement and the living together as husband and wife of the two accused persons, who are both males, transgresses the Malawian recognized standards of propriety since it does not recognize the living of a man with another as husband and wife. Both these acts were acts of gross indecency.” These views were similar to those expressed by the State Prosecutor, Barbara Mchenga, who asked the court to “consider the scar this offence will leave on our morality.”

Dunker Kama, Administrator of CEDEP, responded by stating, “There is nothing immoral or indecent about love. The only thing immoral or indecent is throwing innocent people in jail for more than a decade.”

Everyone who supports human rights should send a protest note to the Malawian embassy in their country and join an immediate campaign to free Steven and Tiwonge. Contact your government and all other political parties to take a stand in defence of the human right of Steven and Tiwonge. Inform the media (Malawian and others) about your outrage and actions. Activate all your national and international networks to create multiple campaigns for the liberation of Steven and Tiwonge. Please email your actions/press clippings, etc. for documentation to: fullliberation AT googlemail DOT com

Links: IGLHRC Press Statement

Letter to President President Bingu wa Mutharika