An African regional body, the Aids and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Arasa), has written the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to shelf the idea of holding a public inquiry on whether or not Malawi should continue criminalising same sex marriages.
On the sidelines of the opening of a conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on key populations—-sex workers, prisoners, people who use drugs and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people, Arasa director Michaela Clayton confirmed writing the letter, which Nation Online has seen.
The MHRC has suggested a public inquiry into the issue, a thing which some civil society organizations oppose. Arasa, which works with 115 civil society organizations in 18 countries in southern and eastern Africa to promote a human rights-based response to HIV and TB.
Reads the letter in part: “While we appreciate the objectives of the inquiry, we would discourage the use of a public inquiry to achieve these objective. Human rights are inalienable and their protection should not be determined by the vote of a majority.”
While appreciating MHRC efforts in making life better for LGBTI people and suggesting that the commission should rather investigate abuses of key populations’ rights, Clayton said in an interview they wrote the commission last week to express the fears.
“Holding such an inquiry would only result in making this harder for the key populations. It is hard for them, since access to healthcare is difficult for them as they fear to come up in the open fearing arrests. The right to health should be for all,” said Clayton.
Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) director Gift Transpence, who is attending the four-day convening, said human rights are not about public opinion.
“No matter how few people may be, we all have rights. We can’t subject the human rights of the minority in the hands of the majority. We must work together to protect the key populations by promoting and protecting proactiveness,” he said.
MHRC director for economic, social and cultural rights Harry Migochi, refused to comment on the issue. He, however, Malawi must look at problems facing key populations holistically.
“We need more human inclusivity so that we brace everyone in the quest for zero HIV infection. We need more civic education so that people are not maimed because of their sexual or gender orientation. All this, coupled with the proposed Aids Act, things will go for the better,” said Migochi.
In Malawi, sex workers have complained of police brutality when they are caught and being denied medicalcare when at times they contact venereal diseases, a thing some people with LGBTI also claim being victims.