Africa

Malawi police end moratorium on anti-gay arrests

Malawi's location in East Africa

Malawi’s location in East Africa

Media outlets in Malawi yesterday reported the arrest of two men on homosexuality charges — despite a 2012 decision to halt such arrests countrywide.

Nyasa Times and Malawi24 reported that police in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, arrested Cuthbert Kulemela, 19, and Kelvin Gonani, 39, for allegedly having sexual intercourse inside Gonani’s home.

Police spokesperson Esther Nkwanda said the incident happened on Monday after the two had been at a bar. Afterward, she said, they went to Gonani’s house and had sex.

When Kulemela was leaving the house he met people whom Malawi24 called “community policing members” who asked him what had been going on in the house.  Kulemela reportedly said the two men had been making love, after which “residents invaded Gonani’s house.”

The two men reportedly face charges of sodomy, but have not appeared in court. Dec. 9

Malawi24 reported today that Kulemela and Gonani were released on bail after being taken to Kamuzu Central Hospital “for assessment.”

Malawi Justice Minister Janet Chikaya-Banda Malawi has stopped arresting people for same-sex intimacy pending a review of the country's anti-gay laws, Justice Minister Janet Chikaya-Banda told the U.N. Human Rights Committee in July 2014. (Photo courtesy of AfricaResearchInstitute.org)

Then Justice Minister Janet Chikaya-Banda said in 2014 that Malawi has stopped arresting people for same-sex intimacy pending a review of the country’s anti-gay laws. (Photo courtesy of AfricaResearchInstitute.org)

Malawi’s anti-homosexuality law is still on the books, but then Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Janet Chikaya-Banda announced last year that the country is no longer arresting people for same-sex acts.

Under the law, sexual intimacy between men is punishable by up to 14 years in prison; for women, the maximum punishment is five years. But the constitutionality of those laws is currently in question. Human rights activists argue that the laws violate Malawi’s constitutional protections for citizens regardless of their sex, race, tribe or religion.

The High Court is focused on a review of the case of three men — Amon Champyuni, Mathews Bello and Musa Chiwisi — who were convicted in 2011 and are serving sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years for practicing homosexuality.

Arrests under Malawi’s anti-gay laws had been on hold since November 2012, when then Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara declared a moratorium on arrests and prosecutions.  He later denied making that decision, but a later Nyasa Times article confirmed that in 2012 the government issued “a moratorium where it ordered police not to arrest people for same-sex acts until the anti-gay laws are reviewed by parliament.”

 

19 thoughts on “Malawi police end moratorium on anti-gay arrests

  1. Dear friends,

    I thought Malawi had moved away from this unfair situation in which some people are unjustly treated on no grounds at all.

    I thought Malawi had come to understand that they are wasting their people’s money (and God knows they don’t have too much of it!) on police officers, prison staff, court personel, etc, for nothing at all, thanks to this law against loving homosexual relationships.

    I thought the people of Malawi were clever enough to know where their best interest lies. And that everyone’s best interest lies in people being happy, being themselves, being the best version of themselves, and taking part in the economy and the local social life, and sharing, yes, SHARING to make everyone’s life fuller and more satisfying.

    I thought the people of Malawi had finally, finally understood that hatred does NOT make for a better economy, or a better social life, and that discrimination is not, by any accounts, the way to a brighter future. Do they really, really believe making gay people feel miserable is going to help them build a stronger, happier nation?

    Well, I was wrong.

    I was wrong to think that Malawi that I love so mcuh had moved forward. I was wrong to think that the people of Malawi had set their minds of improving their laws toward a better society, a more inclusive society in which people know they are protected from bigotry and hate crimes for just being who they are. Tell me, how do two men who love each other break the law? How do two women who love each other break the law? Aren’t laws meant to protect people, to help them enjoy their rights? Aren’t human rights worth anything in Malawi?
    When the law itself is unlawful, what does it mean?
    When the law itself leads to discriminating against some people who harm no one, what does it mean?
    Well, it means that the Malawian government does not know who Malawians are. It means the law does not take people as they really are into account, that the law is daydreaming, far from reality, and enforcing fanciful regulations. This law does not understand Malawian people, hence these crazy, cruel situations that are happening.
    Ok, why not, then, a law and a tough one, against people who have white skin? Or people who have dark skin? Or long-haired women? Or a law against children, or against old people? Or against people who wear blue clothing? -That’s so stupid, right?- Let’s harass them all, let’s arrest them and treat them like dirt and take them to court and imprison them! Let’s make them feel miserable and know how unworthy they really are! Why not kill them for having black skin, or white skin, or being children, or elderly people, or long-haired women, they well deserve it, don’t they? There should be a law against these wicked people, they destroy our great and loving nation!

    Now, tell me, how do two men who love each other so much break the law?

    Tell me. I want to know.

    Thank you.

    Bruno

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  2. You cite your sources for this article as Nyasa Times and Malawi24. What you have not pointed out is that both of them publish only on-line, have no print editions, and follow no code of practice. I do not trust either publication to report fully or accurately, particularly Malawi24. It is unfair therefore that you have headlined your article: “Malawi police end moratorium on anti-gay arrests”.

    Initial reports on this case quoted Esther Mkwanda, the police spokesperson at a local police station. Today I see an article published in the Daily Times which quotes the National Police spokesperson, Nicholas Gondwa. This newspaper is far more credible than the two from which you have quoted, and it has a print edition. Things still seem a bit muddled and not everything may be defensible, but it appears that the men were detained for their own protection since a mob was surrounding their house believing that one of them was in the habit of sodomising local boys. Here is what the national spokesman had to say:

    *** He argued that the police only acted to protect the lives of the two from the angry mob that was stoning the house of one of the suspects.

    “People may perceive it as an arrest but what we did was to protect them. We took them to our police office just for their own safety because on that day, these two people’s lives were in danger.
    “People, who surrounded the suspect’s house, could have done anything because they know [him] as one of the people who sodomise young boys. That’s why we released them two days after the arrest,” said Gondwa.

    He also downplayed accusations that the police used force to have the suspects tested for HIV, STIs and other medical examinations. ***

    (Question: why is he using the word “arrest” here if they were detained for their own protection? Is it a problem of English, which is not his first language?)

    If you want to report further on this issue, then please do not rely on our equivalent of the National Enquirer, but contact the national police spokesman yourself.

    Daily Times article is at: http://www.times.mw/malawi-government-defying-moratorium-on-gays-cedep-chrr/

    BTW: The NGOs CEDEP and CHRR will be milking this issue for all it is worth, because it persuades their foreign donors to release more funding to them for projects like trips to the First World and holding workshops.

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    • I appreciate your information about the three publications. However, the headline “Malawi police end moratorium on anti-gay arrests” still seems to be accurate, despite the police spokesperson’s denial that the men were arrested. I have a copy of their bail certificate, which notes their arrest on sodomy charges.

      — Colin Stewart, editor/publisher of this blog

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      • OK, I believe you about the bail certificate and it is important that we here in Malawi be told of its existence it. Somehow you must be in touch with activists here. Can you ask them to publish it on the internet, or at least to have either The Nation or Daily Times state in an article that it exists, and what are the charges laid against the two individuals?

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  3. The action taken by Malawi police and community members in Capital city Lilongwe to harassed, arrest and touchier the two gay people are total violation of human rights, Malawi is part of global village and has signed international instruments and has constitution which self guide the rights of all people regardless of their sexual orientation, skin, nationality.
    We as an organization working in human rights in Malawi we totally condemns the act and we would like to request the Government of Malawi to stop harassing gay people instead of protecting their rights.

    Like

    • “We as an organization working in human rights in Malawi … ”

      Why are you not naming your organisation? Go on, be a devil and do so!

      ” … we would like to request the Government of Malawi to stop harassing gay people … ”

      Yes, I too would like GoM not to harass gay people, but I would not waste my time asking it here to behave itself, because it is inconceivable that it visits websites such as this one. You are tub-thumping to impress the foreigners! Shades of CEDEP.!

      Like

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