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Malawi government defying moratorium on gays—Cedep, CHRR

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The Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) have accused government and the Malawi Police Service (MPS) of breaching a moratorium on gays.

The development follows the arrest of a suspected gay couple in Lilongwe last week.

Cedep Executive Director Gift Trapence and CHRR boss Timothy Mtambo said they are disappointed that instead of spearheading the protection of the rights of minority groups, the police are in the forefront violating the same rights.

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“The police should not be excited by arresting innocent individuals because if you look at the nature of the case…there are a lot of issues that we need to look at. There are a lot of things; we are talking of the human rights violation that these people went through,” Trapence said.

He added: “We are aware that these people were subjected to medical examinations, HIV and STI [sexually transmitted infections] testing without their consent. So, you cannot subject people to forced HIV testing or any other medical examinations such as taking urinals, stools, simply because you want to justify any case at hand.

“These are the people that are supposed to be protected and the police have a huge task to protect people. The police have other duties to do instead of showing their brutality on innocent individuals.”

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The Cedep boss also took a swipe at government for breaking its own moratorium that it would not arrest people who indulge in homosexuality in the country.

He said it is shocking that the same government is playing double standards by directing the police to arrest gays.

“Government has received money from the Global Fund to implement HIV-related activities to target gay people in Malawi. So, we are worried how we are going to implement those programmes and how we are going to reach gay people if we start arresting them. This is an indication that government is playing double standards because we are expecting government to address legal barriers in accessing those programmes,” Trapence said.

Mtambo on the other hand wondered if government advised MPS to honour the moratorium.

“This only shows that government is not living by its pledge. It’s questionable if the police officers are aware of this moratorium; otherwise, we [did] not expect such an arrest. We might as well think that government made pledges to the international bodies just to please them without necessarily meaning the implementation of the moratorium on the ground,” he said.

But National Police spokesperson, Nicholas Gondwa, trashed the accusations, saying the police did not arrest the suspects.

He argued that the police only acted to protect the lives of the two from the angry mob that was stoning the house of one of the suspects.

“People may perceive it as an arrest but what we did was to protect them. We took them to our police office just for their own safety because on that day, these two people’s lives were in danger.

“People, who surrounded the suspect’s house, could have done anything because they know [him] as one of the people who sodomise young boys. That’s why we released them two days after the arrest,” said Gondwa.

He also downplayed accusations that the police used force to have the suspects tested for HIV, STIs and other medical examinations.

Police in Lilongwe on Monday December 7, 2015, arrested Cuthbert Kulemera, 19, and Kelvin Gonani, 33, for being suspected of having carnal knowledge of each other.

The first homosexual couple to be known in Malawi was that of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steve Monjeza who in 2010 held an engagement ceremony in Blantyre. The courts later handed them a 14-year-jail term for engaging in ‘unnatural acts’.

The punishment was, however, overturned by the later former president Bingu wa Mutharika, who pardoned the two.

This happened after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited the country. Some quarters believe the presidential pardon was due to pressure from the UN Secretary General.

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