|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Festus Mugae and Kenneth Kaunda, former Presidents of Botswana and Zambia, are on their HIV Free Generation tour in some African countries. At a news conference in Lilongwe they condemned Malawi's criminalisation of homosexuality as harmful to LGBTI persons and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"We can preach about behavioral change, but as long as we confine gays and lesbians into dark corners because of our inflexibility to accomodate them, the battle on HIV and AIDS can never be won," said Mugae, who is the chairperson of the Champions of HIV Free Generation.
On his part, Kaunda urged all African leaders to start recognizing same sex marriage. Said Kaunda: "We are not only condemning African leaders who are criminalizing same sex marriage, but we are urging them to start recognising these people, for the sake of HIV and AIDS."
Kaunda and Mugae's condemnation comes amidst the heated debate between government and religious leaders on one hand and some civil society organizations on another hand on whether the country should embrace same sex marriages.
Malawi civil society organisations Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Malawi Religious Leaders Living and Affected by HIV and Aids (Manerela+) have recently challenged statements by religious and government leaders.
In the BBC Debate in Johannesburg last March, Is Homosexuality Un-African?, former Botswana President Festus Mogae was clear that not only was homosexuality African but that LGBTI persons are worthy of human rights.
Last February, Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika signed a bill into law that criminalised sex between women.