Melanie Nathan, Feb 09-2011-
The Malawi government on Wednesday took a risky stand against bilateral donors who refuse donations to Malawi because of Malawi’s criminalization of homosexuality.
Last week Germany withheld half of the $33 million in foreign aid promised to Malawi because of the criminalization of homosexuality and the restriction of press freedom. On the heels of Germany’s decision, the United States is refusing to sign over $350 million in foreign aid to Malawi without further talks about laws restricting “individual freedoms.” The Global Fund recently rejected Malawi’s application for $560 million.
In December 2010, Parliament passed a bill amending the Penal Code of Malawi. In late January 2011, President Bingu Wa Mutharika assented to the bill, thus completing its enactment into law. The new Section 137A, captioned “Indecent practices between females,” provides that any female person who, whether in public or private, commits “any act of gross indecency with another female” shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a prison term of five years, adding lesbian to the existing homosexuality bill. (See yesterday’s article in LezGetReal)
“The criminalization of private sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex, whether women or men, runs counter to Malawi’s obligations to protect the human rights of all citizens of Malawi, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Alli Jernow, Senior Legal Advisor for the Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Project. “If used to prosecute women for their private consensual sexual relationships, the new law threatens the universal rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination.” (Press Release from International Commission of Jurists
Speaking in Geneva last September, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Laws criminalizing people on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity violate the principle of non-discrimination. They also fuel violence, help to legitimize homophobia and contribute to a climate of hate.”
In a Press Conference held in Malawi Wednesday, Ministers asserted that Malawi cannot compromise its sovereignty to legalize homosexuality in order to get aid. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Dr George Chaponda led a team of Presidential spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba, Information and Civic Education Minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda and Gender, Women and Children Welfare Minister Tereza Mwale in addressing a news conference in the capital Lilongwe.At a news conference today, a team of presidential spokespersons rejected the decriminalization of homosexuality as an condition upon which AID would be received, noting that Malawi cannot amend its laws to allow homosexuality just to receive donor aid.
During the news conference, the officials were reacting to reports that the German government has cut aid following Malawi’s failure to repeal laws that criminalize homosexuality and its enactment of laws seen as restricting media freedom. But LezGetReal sources have revealed the contrary. In fact yesterday LGR reported that the German and possibly American delay in signing an aid Agreement had everything to do with the legislation against minorities in Malawi.
The Ministers noted a talking point that seems to be sweeping across Africa – “It is Immoral to force Malawi to be a homosexual nation just to receive AID.” What an interesting spin. It is tantamount to saying to those who sought to divest from South Africa during the apartheid era – ” It is immoral to force a sovereign country to end apartheid just because we need investment.”
APARTHEID Belonged to a Sovereign Country – that did not make it right – !
When I asked David Bahati the Ugandan MP and author of the new U.S. Evangelical fundamental sponsored anti-homosexuality bill, what he thought about divestment and retraction of Aid, he answered in the exact terminology as did the Malawians. He said – “It is immoral for Uganda to exchange its values for AID.”
Do countries like Malawi and Uganda, really believe that the world is immoral in countering religious and cultural dogma that imposes upon their standing in the context of International relations? Is it not disingenuous and contra bonos mores as players in the global context, to tout their democracy when expecting the West to provide Aid and investment?
Americans believe it is immoral to criminalize homosexuality just as the believed it was immoral to institutionalize legal segregation, via the Group Areas Act in South Africa, a headline feature of apartheid. Is Sovereignty a mask to shield from immoral legislation? Does that mean Nazi Germany could make a law to exterminate Jews – just because it could allege sovereignty?
Is the abuse of the term a precursor for genocide?
For years I have been writing that our the US has a precarious position in touting pro-gay positions to Africa when we do not have full equality in the USA. This is a “put your money where your mouth is ” indeed – moment, The minister challenged the West saying that “globally there is no consensus on gay rights saying 76 countries ban same sex marriages and criminalize gay or lesbians acts while 68 mostly European countries support gay rights.” While not an entirely accurate statement – one gets the point.
He said in the SADC region, it is only South Africa and Namibia out of 16 that do not criminalise homosexuality. But he failed to State that South Africa embraces gay rights via its Bill of Rights that explicitly includes sexual orientation and gender identity. That is no excuse in reality – like my dear mother would say “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
Perhaps Malawi , Uganda and other countries who criminalize gays and lesbians, ought to be subjected to divestment- maybe then will reconsider the global ideals and values when contemplating their sovereignty and standing in the world as a global community.