As the nation awaits President Peter Mutharika to assent to the recently passed Marriage Bill, several local and international civil society groups have ganged up to express their concerns, through the United Nations, over the law.
In a letter addressed to the UN Resident Representative, Mia Seppo, and copied to almost all major donors represented in Malawi, the 19 pro-gay groups have expressed concerns over the law for not recognising minorities’ rights.
“The bill defines all marriages, unions, cohabitation, or customary marriages as between a man and a woman, ignoring the reality of same-sex relationships, and codifying State rejection of all same-sex relationships, whether married or not,” reads part of the letter.
The organisations have asked the UN to contact Mutharika to convey what they call discriminatory contents in the bill.
While praising the bill passed for protecting the girl-child, the organisations say it violates Malawi’s human rights obligations to guards against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) and Manelera are the two organisations that have signed up to the letter.
But a law lecturer at Chancellor College, Chikosa Banda, said no-one cannot stop the President from signing a bill that has followed due consultations process.
“In any case, the groups were supposed to petition Parliament before the bill was finalised,” he said.
Emma Kaliya, chairperson of NGO Gender Coordinating Network, said she was aware about the petition but lamented that it would be sad for Malawian girls, especially if the President did not assent to the bill.
“This bill has been around for a very long time; it is unfortunate that some quarters came in after the bill had already been passed. I want to state categorically that they have a right but why can’t lobby for amendments at a later stage to allow the law to be in place?” said Kaliya. n