Malawi Government has told the visiting United States of America’s special envoy on the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community, Randy Berry, that it has no immediate plans to change its official stance on the country’s homosexuality laws.
Berry met various government officials on Tuesday a day after meeting civil society groups.
Solicitor general and secretary for Justice Janet Banda, who was among the government representatives, said in an interview that the discussions centred on the LGBTI issues in a broad human rights context.
She said during the meeting, Berry wanted to know Malawi’s position on issues of LGBTI in the country to which the Malawi side stressed has not changed.
Banda said that government allows debate on the matter so that people are more informed.
She further said Malawi twice consulted with people across the country on whether there was need to have the law changed, stressing that the outcome was for the laws to remain the same.
Said Banda: “The position of government has not changed. We made obligations to prevent violence against the LGBTI community, to facilitate access to medical and health care, among others.
“But the general consensus at the moment is that Malawi is not ready to change its laws and embrace homosexuality, as such we have engaged the civil society to continue engaging the people on the debate about these issues.”
Representatives of the civil society organisations Berry met on Monday included those from Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the United Nations.
CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo said the meeting sought to give the envoy a picture of how rights of LGBTI community are being upheld or broken in the country.
He said: “It was more of an internal meeting where he was engaging with the active players on matters of the LGBTI community and finding out what is happening to improve access of rights of LGBTI in the country.”
Berry earlier said Malawi needs to allow debate on the issue for people to understand LGBTI issues, saying that the debate will only allow people to open up, which in turn would reduce hostility from less-informed people.
He said: “At the time I was declaring that I am gay, only 20 percent of the population knew someone who was an LGBTI, yet today about 90 percent of the people know someone who is either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. This does not mean that there are more LGBTIs, but rather they have opened up and people know about them.”