Africa

Malawi: Judge seeks renewed gay arrests; gay man attacked

Judge Dingiswayo Madise (Photo courtesy of Malawi's The Nation)

Judge Dingiswayo Madise (Photo courtesy of Malawi’s The Nation)

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.

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 after being attacked in Malawi. (This photo from Facebook was widely distributed by LGBTI rights activists who were outraged by the incident.)

Kelvin Gomani after being attacked in Malawi. (This photo from Facebook was widely distributed by LGBTI rights activists who were outraged by the incident.)

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.

Ken Msonda, Peoples Party spokesperson, calls for homosexuals to be killed. (Photo courtesy of Nyasa Times)

Ken Msonda, Peoples Party spokesperson, calls for homosexuals to be killed. (Photo courtesy of Nyasa Times)

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.

Randy Berry, the U.S. state department's special envoy for LGBT rights. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State)

Randy Berry, the U.S. state department’s special envoy for LGBT rights. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of State)

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.

 

6 thoughts on “Malawi: Judge seeks renewed gay arrests; gay man attacked

  1. Pingback: In Malawi, the glass is half full (experimental version) | 76 CRIMES

  2. Pingback: Malawi debates its anti-LGBTI law, still on hold | 76 CRIMES

  3. Pingback: 1000s march in Malawi to protest abortion, same-sex marriages | 76 CRIMES

  4. Pingback: Malawi court to decide: Is it hate speech to say ‘kill the gays’? | 76 CRIMES

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