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Donors angry with ‘gay’ arrest

The United States, United Kingdom and the Human Rights Watch have urged Capital Hill to abide by its moratorium on consensual same-sex conduct.

US Ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer first made the call through a press statement, Tuesday, following a story that we ran on Monday, December 14, 2015, highlighting the arrest of two men suspected to be homosexuals in Lilongwe City.

In July 2014, Solicitor- General and Secretary of Justice, Janet Chikaya-Banda, affirmed to the UN Human Rights Committee that the government had suspended enforcement of laws that prohibit consensual sex between adults of the same sex– including Sections 137(a), 153, 154 and 156 of the Penal Code– pending a High Court review of their constitutionality.

But the police on December 7, 2015 arrested 19-year-old Cuthbert Kulemera and Kelvin Gonani, 33, a development that did not please the US Ambassador.

“As the US Ambassador to Malawi, I am closely following the December 7 arrest of two Malawian citizens who were charged with sodomy in violation of Section 153 of the Penal Code and subjected to a medical examination without their consent.” said Palmer in the statement.

She also called on government to drop the charges and resolve what she termed as the “unfortunate incident.”

“I remind the government of its stated policy not to arrest, detain, charge, or pursue people engaged in consensual same-sex activity. The rights of LGBTI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-gender, Inter-sex] persons are human rights. As a matter of human rights, public health, and public order, LGBTI persons should not be discriminated against in any way,” reads the statement.

The United Kingdom and the Human Rights Watch have also weighed in on the matter.

The UK High Commission to Malawi wrote on its twitter handle: “We are concerned over recent reports regarding the breaking of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Moratorium in Malawi.”

Meanwhile the Human Rights Watch in its statement addressed to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, also expressed concern over the arrest of the two men in Lilongwe.

Director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Programme at the organisation, Graeme Reid, said in a statement: “Malawi made a courageous decision in 2012 to stop prosecuting people

for consensual same-sex conduct, winning accolades from the United Nations, international partners, and human rights organisations in Malawi and abroad.

“In demonstrating its respect for the rights to privacy and non-discrimination, Malawi has set a positive example for dozens of countries around the world that are also contemplating reforming antiquated colonial-era legislation, alongside neighbouring Mozambique, which decriminalised homosexual conduct earlier this year.”

Reid also urged government authorities to stop charges against the two and instruct the police not to arrest anyone on grounds that they are indulging in consensual same-sex conduct.

“We were surprised and disappointed to learn that in the early morning hours of December 7, community police in Area 25 in Lilongwe stopped and interrogated Cuthbert K. on the road, physically assaulted him, entered Kelvin G.’s home with no warrant, and arrested the two men, allegedly on the grounds that they had engaged in consensual same-sex conduct,’ said Reid.

But the US Embassy’s statement which has been posted on its Facebook page has sparked the wrath of some citizens on the Facebook community.

Well known evangelist Pastor Zacc Kawalala wrote, “LGBTIs rights have not been declared fundamental human rights in any instruments. So please let’s stop this cultural imperialism. What is not natural should never be naturalized. Every human being has the general accepted right. Please let Malawians decide for Malawians.”

Musician and lawmaker Lucius Banda wrote: “My fellow Malawians the best answer to that is getting independent economically.”

But one Chawezi Banda was a bit rudimentary: “This is Malawi not America. To hell with your stupid homosexuality. We are a Christian nation.”

Government spokesperson Jappie Mhango referred the matter to Tembenu.

But when contacted at around 2:57pm yesterday, Tembenu told the reporter to call back after an hour; saying he was tied up with other businesses. When contacted again after the said hour, he did not pick our calls. Instead he texted, notifying the reporter that he was busy.

In 2010 Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steve Monjeza were the first homosexual couple to be known in Malawi after they held an engagement ceremony in Blantyre.

They were handed a 14-year-jail term by the court but they were pardoned by the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Some quarters believe that this happened due to pressure from the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki Moon who visited the country over the issue.

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