Irish Ambassador Gerry Cunningham has challenged minority rights campaigners in Malawi to learn from their African counterparts’ strides to get rid of repressive laws.
The envoy made the call in a webinar on Friday when Nyasa Rainbow Alliance convened almost 40 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Blantyre for Malawi’s first-ever pride event.
The belated commemoration of the pride month observed in June every year shines a light on struggles and achievements of LGBTI people.
Cunningham said the regional approach proved pivotal when Ireland–home to openly gay Prime Minister Leo Varadkar—eliminated repressive LGBTI laws in line with the European Union values on human rights and equal treatment.
He asked Malawi to learn from neighbouring Mozambique and South Africa, which have discarded colonial laws that fuel stigma and discrimination against members of the LGBTI community.
When we talk about the regional approach, it is not about learning from the relics of colonialism, but learning here in Africa from countries like South Africa and Mozambique. What has worked? What have been the lessons? The lessons that you have on the continent are much more valuable than any lesson from outside.”
Cunningham stated that the new administration’s promise of a new Malawi for everyone in society creates an opportunity to advance human rights for all, including sexual minorities, persons with albinism and those with disability.
President Lazarus Chakwera has pledged to create a better Malawi for all that live in it, but human rights activists say the said shift will remain elusive until everyone is safe from discriminatory attacks, arrests and evictions fanned by colonial laws.
Same-sex relationship are criminalised by Sections 153 and 156 and 137 of the Penal Code, which outlaw indecent acts and sexual acts deemed contrary to the order of nature.
Ruth Kaima, from the Centre for Human Rights Education, Assistance and Advice, said the laws inherited from British colonial masters are too broad, unspecific and often abused to victimise sexual minorities.
She said: “The laws are not clear-cut and they leave a lot to be desired as they are not specific and give the State loopholes to abuse the LGBTI community.”
Nyasa Rainbow Alliance asked the government to repeal LGBTI laws as the current moratorium hinges on ruling elites’ goodwill.
The Pride event also pays tribute to LGBTI members killed in the struggle to be accepted the way they are.
No person might have been killed in Malawi, but the LGBTI community endures untold misery, especially mob attacks, eviction from homes, exclusion from work and arbitrary arrests.