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BTM HOSTS ROUND TABLE ON THE STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN MALAWI

in MALAWI, 27/01/2012

Two human rights defenders from Malawi were recently in Johannesburg to brief South African colleagues on the situation for the LGBTI in that country.

The two, Undule Mwakasungula, executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and rehabilitation (CHRR) and Gift Trapence the Director of the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) met with Johannesburg based Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) organisations to assess the general human rights situation in the country with also a focus on LGBTI issues.

The meeting was within the framework of the Law Review process going on in Malawi.

Organised by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and hosted by Behind the Mask (BTM), the meeting was attended by representatives of LGBTI organisations including the Coalition of African Lesbian (CAL), African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHer), the Open Society Initiative in Southern Africa (OSISA) and the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA).

In her opening remarks, Jabu Pereira, IGLHRC’s Africa Program Coordinator welcomed the opportunity to have an informal discussion on the human rights situation in Malawi.

She also said that in terms of human rights “We have not had the opportunity here in South Africa to engage on what is going on in the continent. Even the media here do not cover what is happening in Nigeria for example.”

The meeting started with a presentation by Trapence on the current state of governance and human rights in Malawi. He explained that the state of economic and democratic governance has been deteriorating in the country since the second term of the ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

He cited the abuse of the ruling party’s parliamentary majority to pass unpopular and undemocratic laws, the monopoly of public media by the ruling party, corruption and abuse of power, political intolerance and violence, acute fuel and foreign exchange shortage as some of the many signs of Malawi’s deteriorating situation.

Focusing on LGBTI issues, Trapence explained that the Malawi Parliament also amended the Penal Code Section 137 A on same sex relationships targeting women.

He stressed that the Malawi Law Review process was an opportunity to push for the repeal of the sodomy laws since they are already part of the agenda and this initiative will be supported if CEDEP and CHRR and other partners are on the forefront coordinating the efforts with other partners.

The meeting also discussed ideas on how to help and improve the situation of Malawian human rights in general and LGBTI rights in particular.

CEDEP and CHRR presented their Human Rights report at the United Nations Human Rights Council in October 2011 and the Malawi Government is expected to respond the human rights issues in March in Geneva.

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