Malawiâ€™s major donors say although they do not impose conditions on the government, their expectation is that President Joyce Bandaâ€™s administration should respect human rights, including sexual minorities.
This comes against a background of a statement by Banda, as quoted by the Associated Press (AP) in the United States of America, that Malawi was not ready to repeal laws which criminalise homosexuality in the country despite her pledge after taking office to work to overturn the legislation.
In an e-mail interview on Thursday, Common Approach to Budget Support (Cabs) co-chairperson AsbjÃ¸rn Eidhammer said Malawiâ€™s Constitution gives all Malawians a right not to be discriminated against and a right to personal privacy.
Said Eidhammer, who is also Norwegian Ambassador: â€œDevelopment partners view these rights [sexual minority rights] as important and have good reason to trust that they are maintained and supported by the Government of Malawi.
â€œAs development partners, we work with the government and people of Malawi everyday to try to ensure that all Malawians can enjoy a better future. Laws which unfairly discriminate against any group in society weaken these efforts and the constitutional freedom guaranteed to all Malawians.â€
Eidhammer shared Bandaâ€™s sentiments that it took a lot of time for Western countries to accommodate sexual minorities adding that even in Norway, as late as in the 1960s, homosexual relations were forbidden as against culture and religion but that currently tolerance prevails.
Eidhammer quoted retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa who, based on his values and belief, said: â€œEvery human being is precious. We are allâ€”all of usâ€”part of Godâ€™s family. We all must be allowed to love each other with honour.â€
In reaction, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence said the conflicting statements coming from the President only confirms that political leaders are full of contradictions.
But presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane said the President has not made any conflicting statements on the issue because initially, laws criminalising homosexuality are among those that were supposed to be reviewed by Parliament.
Said Nhlane: â€œThe President has clearly stated that she would go by what Malawians will decide on the matter.â€
President Banda, who two months ago said Malawians should make the decision on the issue, told the international media that the national debate had shown a lack of public support so far for the change.