A glimmer of good news is visible in a news article about a group of homophobic Christian pastors in Malawi who don’t even understand their own country’s laws.
The glimmer comes from an anonymous journalist’s caption under a photo of a rainbow flag, which illustrates the article. The caption states, “Displaying the rainbow flag of gay rights activists: Despite vocal opposition in a number of African countries, acceptance is slowly gaining ground.”
Perhaps so. Mozambique has repealed its anti-gay law. A moratorium remains in effect on enforcement of the anti-gay law in Malawi, despite pressure. Botswana’s LGBTI rights organization Legabibo has won a court judgement ordering the government to grant it official recognition. The Tunisian LGBTI rights organization Shams won official recognition last year and, despite intense pressure, has hung onto it this year. Seychelles is preparing to repeal its anti-gay law, following in the footsteps of the tiny island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, which did so in 2012.
Meanwhile, in Malawi, a group of pastors urged the government to arrest 4,000 homosexuals in the northern city of Mzuzu. The figure of 4,000 is an estimate of the number of gay men in that city, as calculated by the LGBTI rights group CEDEP (Centre for the Development of the People). That number represents about 2 percent of the population of the city.
But the pastors think there’s an actual list of 4,000 Mzuzu residents who are gay, and that police could use it to track them down. Even if such a ridiculous list existed and if the moratorium on Malawi’s anti-gay law were not in force, the pastors’ proposal would still be fatally flawed. Under Malawian law, only acts of same-sex intimacy (“carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature”) are illegal. Simply being gay is not.
This is the text of the News24 article:
Blantyre – A coalition of young pastors in Malawi have threatened to drag the government to court to force it arrest 4 000 homosexuals living in northern Malawi’s city of Mzuzu.
The Young Pastors Coalition of Malawi (YPCM) has accused the government of encouraging homosexuality through its failure to arrest gays and lesbians.
Despite same sex relations being outlawed, Malawi government has been reluctant to arrest and prosecute homosexuals.
The survey results have irked the pastors who argue that the research was conducted as part of advocacy to promote homosexuality in Malawi.
“We want the group that conducted the survey to present the names of the 4 000 homosexuals to police so that they can be arrested and face prosecution,” argue the pastors in a statement.
The statement signed by the coalition’s director Patrick Banda and general secretary Tusalifye Mbeye adds: “This statement should warn officials like the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector General of Police to take action and treat any homosexual as a criminal, the same way thieves are treated as criminals.”
Reacting to the call, Malawi’s Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu has advised the pastors to concentrate on their work instead of poking their noses into matters of the state.
“Let our pastors continue doing their good work of saving lost souls. However, they should let experts in human rights, constitutionalism and law enforcement to do what they are supposed to do,” he said.
Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence has rubbished such calls as retrogressive.
“Such calls are retrogressive considering that government’s moratorium shows government’s commitment to review gay laws. Pastors should remember that we live in a free society. People are free to associate and enjoy human rights,” said Trapence.
Religious leaders have been vehemently opposing the relaxation of homosexual laws in Malawi.
Recently, the clergy spearheaded the quashing of a government’s moratorium on gays which shielded homosexuals from prosecution.
Despite the pastors’ campaign, Malawian government has said it will not arrest or prosecute gay citizens as lawmakers will review existing anti-homosexual laws.
Under Malawi laws, convicted homosexuals are jailed for 14 years. [Editor’s note: That’s not an accurate summary of the relevant law.]
4,000 homosexuals living in Malawi’s Mzuzu city – survey (March 24, 2016, en.starafrica.com)
- In Malawi, the glass is half full (experimental version) (February 2016, 76crimes.com)
- 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)