There has been talk before and there is talk now about gay rights or homosexuality and whether Malawi should embrace it or not. Some have justified why homosexuality is evil or why as a country Malawi should never embrace homosexuals by quoting the Bible, the Quran and different cultural practices.
Then there are some Malawi ‘human rights defenders’ who opt to stand on the fence when it’s homosexual issues. This group seem not too sure whether they should defend gay rights or not despite the fact that they operate under the banner of ‘human rights defenders’.
Malawi political leaders have not helped matters either. They seem undecided, unknowledgeable and in some instances they push the issue on Malawians the majority of which are not enlightened enough on legal and policy issues.
Malawi is a signatory to a number of international treaties promoting and defending human rights and rule of law. As a country, we cannot pick and choose which human rights to defend and which ones not to defend. By signing the Universal Declaration on Human rights we signed and agreed to defend the rights of all Malawians regardless of their political, cultural, religious, sex, sexual orientation, social standing etc.
Usually, we talk of gay rights as if it’s different rights from all other human rights. This is what perpetuates homophobia in the country. Gays are humans just like all of us.
Civil society organisations that defend human rights in the country have been shy to come out and fight for rights of gays, some because they fear being disowned in their religious associations or otherwise. As a defender of human rights, you cannot pick and choose. You have to fight for the rights of all citizens. If it is against your beliefs and conscience, then you cannot be a human rights defender.
Then we have a leadership that is completely useless when it comes to issues of gay rights. From the President to the lowest ranking government official they all seem not ready to lead the nation on this issue. Our leadership is systematically abandoning its responsibility and has instead decided to let the citizenry lead it when it comes to gay rights.
You just have to listen to Minister of Foreign Affairs George Chaponda talk on this issue. One gets the idea that either government is clueless or it simply is washing its hands off. A good leadership should be comfortable making uncomfortable decisions on behalf of its people – be they gay, lesbian, heterosexual, religious, atheist or any other. n