Out and proud. On Saturday, sexual minorities and their allies took to the streets of the capital, Lilongwe, to demand government’s commitment to respect human rights regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The country’s first pride march came at the close of the Pride Month, when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) persons celebrate their existence and status while demanding full recognition of their rights.
The marchers, joined by campaigners and Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) members, petitioned President Lazarus Chakwera to ensure everyone enjoys the bill of rights embedded in the Constitution.
The petition presented through Lilongwe City Council reads in part: “We also find it unfair that the Minister of Justice thinks the LGBTIQ conversation should be subjected to a national study.
“This is very disturbing because minority rights issues cannot be subjected to a study, inquiry, or vote by broader population because numerically, we are already disadvantaged.”
The march was organised by Nyasa Rainbow Alliance (NRA), a non-governmental organisation founded and run by LGBTIQ persons to defend their rights, interests and space.
They petitioned against government’s failure to commit to eradicate rights violations as recommended by the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2020.
NRA’s George Kachimanga said the LGBTIQ community continues to face multiple stigma, discrimination and persecution.
Last year, the pride month observance was confined to their closed space in Blantyre where they held a virtual meeting to discuss the need for law reform.
Kachimanga said they celebrated this year’s edition publicly and differently as “a matter of enhancing the visibility”.
“Despite being part of the minority, we also have big issues that need to be addressed,” said the activist.
MHRC commissioner Chikondi Chijozi joined the march to Lilongwe Town Hall.
In an interview yesterday, she said the rights protectors participated because the commission promotes human rights for everyone regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
Chijozi said: “We are in solidarity with the LGBTIQ community as they are all part of the human community,”