A gang in central Malawi and a judge in northern Malawi have raised the stakes in that country’s debates over whether to persecute LGBTI citizens or to recognize their human rights.
- In Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, on Feb. 8, “a group of unidentified men beat up a renowned gay” and left him bleeding from head injuries, the Maravi Post reported.
- In Mzuzu on Feb. 9, High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise granted an injunction requested by anti-gay pastors seeking an end to the government’s moratorium on arrests under the country’s anti-homosexuality law during court deliberations on that law’s constitutionality.
Madise demanded responses from police; Samuel Tembenu, the minister of justice and constitutional Affairs; and Malawi’s top prosecutor, Mary Kachale, the director of public prosecution. He issued an order restraining police and Kachale “from continuing to cease arresting and prosecuting suspects of homosexuals offenses or offenses relating to carnal knowledge against the order of nature.”
The court order was requested by the Young Pastors Coalition of Malawi, which last month had called for the re-arrest of two Malawian men who faced homosexuality charges in December but then were released as the moratorium was reaffirmed.
Kelvin Gomani, the target of this week’s attack, was one of the two men who were arrested Dec. 7 for alleged homosexual activity.
The latest attack came a month after opposition People’s Party spokesperson Ken Msonda posted on Facebook several statements that Malawian gays “are worse than dogs,” that gays and lesbians are “sons and daughters of the devil” and that they should be killed.
The Malawi Law Society took offense at those statements and filed charges against Msonda in court, while also asking police and the Malawi Human Rights Commission to investigate Msonda’s statements as hate speech, a criminal offense.
The case against Msonda got under way, pushed by the law society, the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and LGBT rights advocates at the Centre for Peoples Development (CEDEP). Several other civil society organizations expressed interest in joining the case, including Youth and Children Rights Shield (YOCRIS), the Forum for National Development (FND), and the Counseling for the Adolescent Youth Organization (CAYO).
But the case against Msonda was taken over and then discontinued by Kachale, Malawi’s director of public prosecution, who intervened on Jan. 21.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed fears that the decision to drop charges against Msonda could have serious consequences. In a statement, U.N. Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said:
“We are concerned that the failure to prosecute this case sends a dangerous message that inciting others to kill gay people is legitimate and will be tolerated by the authorities—in effect encouraging violent threats and attacks on the gay and lesbian community in Malawi.”
About two weeks later, Gomani was attacked by a crowd of unidentified people. According to Malawi24, the attackers were fellow gays who objected to an alleged offer by Gomani to sell his nine-year-old nephew as a prostitute. According to other accounts, the crowd consisted of heterosexuals who objected to Gomani’s sexual orientation. According to yet another report, the attackers were gay men motivated by jealousy who also spread the false story about Gomani and his nephew.
The latest round of Malawian debates about homosexuality began on Dec. 19, when Justice Minister Tembenu reaffirmed the moratorium and announced that charges had been dropped against Gomani and a second defendant.
On Jan. 6, President Peter Mutharika took the position that he “wants gay rights protected” and proposed a referendum on the anti-gay law.
In the middle of the January uproar, Malawi received a visit from Randy Berry, the U.S. state department’s special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons. He denied rumors that the foreign aid from the United States depends on Malawi legalizing same-sex marriage or repealing its anti-gay law. Berry was not in Malawi to convince the government to accept homosexuality, he said, but to seek an end to discrimination against LGBTI Malawians.
At the end of his 10-day visit to Malawi, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, Berry said, “I believe in all of these countries, there are seeds of hope.”
This article was revised Feb. 12 to incorporate a summary of the account of Gomani’s beating from the Malawi24 article, ” ‘No, he wasn’t beaten for being gay.’ “ It was further revised on Feb. 14 to incorporate the report that Gomani was beaten by jealous gay men.
- Stronger voices for LGBT rights in Malawi (Jan. 16, 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Call for police probe of anti-gay hate speech in Malawi (Jan. 6, 2016, 76crimes.com)
- Msonda faces arrest over gay attack (Jan. 5, 2016, Malawi24)
- PP’s Msonda sticks to his kill gays call despite Malawi Law Society censure (Jan. 5, 2016, Malawi News Now)
- Pastor coalition wants homosexuals re-arrested (Jan. 4, 2015, The Nation)
- Gay Malawian appeals for justice; now he’s in hiding (Jan. 2, 2016, 76crimes.com)
Gays come out fighting: ‘Kill us or give us our rights’ (Jan. 2, 2016, The Times of Malawi)
- Malawi gay man comes out: ‘Either kill gays or give us rights’ (Jan. 2, 2016, Nyasa Times)
- Malawi drops charges against 2 arrested for gay sex (Dec. 19, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Malawi outraged as West opposes revival of gay arrests (Dec. 19, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Malawi arrests came with threats, assault, extortion (Dec. 16, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Malawi police end moratorium on anti-gay arrests (Dec. 10, 2015, 76crimes.com)
- Malawi is Ready to Legalise Homosexuality’ — Mutharika (July 4, 2015, Malawi24)
- It’s official: No more Malawi arrests under anti-gay laws (July 2014, 76crimes.com)
- 3 in Malawi prisons await ruling on sodomy law
- UN joins legal challenge to Malawi’s anti-gay law (January 2014, 76crimes.com)
- Malawi High Court weighs overturning anti-gay law (November 2013, 76crimes.com)