It’s called ‘human’ rights, not ‘straight’ rights

Kaluso says: “You can’t say this one has rights because he’s straight, this one doesn’t because he’s gay. It’s called 'human rights,' not 'straight rights'.” (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)
Kaluso says: “You can’t say this one has rights because he’s straight, this one doesn’t because he’s gay. It’s called ‘human’ rights, not ‘straight’ rights.” (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Kaluso, a 28-year-old trans woman from Malawi, speaks out about the need for zero discrimination when it comes to the rights of sexual minorities.

These are some excerpts from the article, which appears on the AIDS Alliance website:

“I didn’t choose to be trans. I was born like this.”

Kaluso is accepted and loved by her family and neighbors living in Blanytre, Malawi, but elsewhere faces stigma and violence:

“A few years back when I was attacked,” she says, “I went to the police and I was further victimised.”  She recalls being followed and attacked during a night out with her friends. They were targeted because they stood out as LGBT people.

Mphatso (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)
Kaluso with her friend Mphatso (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

Kaluso’s friend, Mphatso, 31, says: “Here in Malawi, people are so homophobic, because it’s not allowed in the law.  Stigma and discrimination leads to increased risk of HIV for LGBT people in Malawi. It results in less check-ups, less condom use, and because it’s hidden, people are sleeping with married men, who also sleep with their wife.”

In a change from the past, Superintendent Horace Chabuka, Blantyre’s community policing coordinator, is at ease with the current situation in Malawi, where enforcement of the country’s law against same-sex intimacy has been suspended. He says of same-sex couples:

“They are not doing anything wrong.”

Chabuka has learned about sexual minorities through conversations and workshops with Community Health Rights Advocacy (CHeRA). He says:

“After attending discussions with CHeRA I realised we cannot deny [that homosexuality exists], otherwise, at the end of the day, we will lose more lives. People will not come forward to get services, for sexual health or HIV services for example, or it might be that they have been attacked and will not ask the police to assist them.”

Kaluso’s friend Shy Amanda, 29, is relieved that there is progress. “If the police can arrest us, where else can we go?” she says. Both women receive support from CHeRA and have attended their workshop, which brought them together with officers and health workers to discuss the challenges they face. (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)
Kaluso’s friend Shy Amanda, 29, is relieved that there is progress. “If the police can arrest us, where else can we go?” she says. Both women receive support from CHeRA and have attended their workshop, which brought them together with officers and health workers to discuss the challenges they face. (Gemma Taylor photo courtesy of International HIV/AIDS Alliance)

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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