|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Malawian Vice President Joyce Banda, has called for tolerance towards homosexuality, at a meeting hosted by the Inter-Faith AIDS Association (MIAA) held in Blantyre, Malawi, on 29 September this year.
Banda made the call when she officially opened a Religious Leader’s Policy Advocacy Conference in Blantyre, stating that same sex practices are reality in Malawi and that religious leaders need be tolerant on such issues in order to fight HIV and AIDS.
“I am of the opinion that MIAA is strategically positioned to bring faith leaders together to debate how to respond to HIV and AIDS, find ways of repositioning in order to tackle the issue of homosexuality without necessarily compromising the moral integrity of faith institutions”, said Banda.
Gift Trapence Director of Centre for the Development of People in Malawi commended Banda’s statement stating that it is an indication that government is willing to engage on issues of homosexuality.
“This is indeed good news to the LGBT community. It sets an example for other countries to take precedent and allow Men having sex with Men (MSM) initiatives in their countries.”
Trapennce suspects that the positive statement was a result of the case of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga which rocked Malawi and attracted international attention and condemnation.
“Personally I think it could be attributed to the international pressure but nonetheless it is definitely a step forward for the LGBT community”, he said.
Chimbalanga, 20, and 26-year-old Monjeza, were arrested in December last year after holding a public engagement ceremony in Blantyre, Malawi.
A Blantyre magistrate convicted the two on buggery and gross indecency charges handing them a maximum 14 years jail sentence .
With the intervention from various governments, and other international bodies, the couple was pardoned by President Bingu Wa Mutharika.
Just 10 days after the pardon, Monjeza was rumored to be living with a new female partner, Dorothy Gulo, however Trapence could not confirm the rumor but stated “I think it had to do with all the attention the court case drew and also pressure but also it could be fear and the discrimination from the community.”
Meanwhile Tiwonge Chimbalanga is set to be leaving for Canada where he has found asylum, “Some people will host him for three years then after that he will find what to do. We have advised him not to mess this opportunity”, said Maxwell Manda, Chimbalanga’s cousin said through CEDEP.
In Malawi homosexual acts are punishable, under section 153 “unnatural offences” and section 156 which deals with “public decency”. And tourists that commit homosexual acts can be prosecuted under article 156 and expelled as “undesirable aliens.”