The Lilongwe City Council (LCC) snubbed a petition from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community which they delivered after conducting a Pride Parade in the capital city on Friday, the grouping has claimed.
George Kachimanga, programmes and operations manager at Nyasa Rainbow Alliance (NRA) which was part of organisers of the parade, confirmed the development in an interview on Saturday.
He said LCC instead asked them to deliver the petition, which was addressed to the Office of President and Cabinet, to Parliament.
However, the marchers, a majority of them hiding their faces, failed to deliver the petition at the National Assembly despite waiting for over an hour at the Parliament Building. Instead, they dropped it at the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
Kachimanga stated: “The city council was supposed to receive our petition. We were referred to Parliament but no one could receive it.
“Eventually, we delivered it to MHRC since the government gave them the mandate to commission a study on the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community.
However, LCC publicist Tamara Chafunya on Saturday said she was not aware about the development and referred Nation on Sunday to Hudson Kuphanga, who she said handles petitions.
Kuphanga also said he was not aware and instead said the only petition the council was expecting was from “rainbow something” organisation.
Asked if he meant NRA, he said he was not supposed to be interviewed because “this is the weekend and I am off duty”.
On his part, Parliament spokesperson Ian Mwenye said he was aware that there was an attempt to deliver the petition to the National Assembly, but the groups were advised to present it through a legislator.
“When delivering a petition, one has to pass through a member of Parliament. So, who did they book to receive that petition?” he quizzed.
The organisers said they did not pass through any legislator.
MHRC did not respond to our questionnaire to confirm if they received the petition.
In the petition, the LGBTQ+ community expressed concern over abuses of their rights which include denial of healthcare and arbitrary arrests against them.
“The police have been making frequent arrests of LGBTQ+ people simply because they are lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, intersex, among others.
“This has even forced some gay men in Malawi to adopt some self-censoring behaviour by getting married to women to conform to society’s expectations, and avoid harassment, discrimination and arbitrary arrests,” the petition reads in part.
Sections 153 and 156 of country’s Penal Code criminalise same sex sexual conduct between men and those convicted face up to 14 years imprisonment, with or without corporal punishment.
Section 137A of Malawi’s Penal Code criminalises “indecent practices between females” with anyone found guilty liable to a prison term of five years.
In 2012, the Ministry of Justice suspended the laws that criminalise same-sex sexual conduct pending a decision on whether to repeal them.
Pride Parade is an outdoor event celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender social and self acceptance, achievements, legal rights, and pride.
The events also at times serve as demonstrations for legal rights such as same-sex marriage.