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George Chaponda hits at donors on gays

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Minister of Foreign Affairs George Chaponda has hit back at some donors who are pressurising the country to embrace minority rights, arguing that the controversial issue has not been fully accepted even in Europe and the United States of America.

Chaponda said the decision on whether the country should legalize same-sex marriages or not rests with Malawians themselves.

Speaking to The Daily Times on the sidelines of eighth anniversary celebration of Malawi- China relations in Lilongwe, the Minister described the issue as sensitive, adding that government is currently consulting.

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Said Chaponda, “Even in their [the donors] countries, go to America. How many states have adopted gays? You go to Europe, even in Africa, maybe it’s only South Africa and a few countries, so we have to tread carefully, by the end of the day we will do what you people want us to do. We are there to implement what our Malawian people want, if they want that everybody should go that way—same-sex marriage—we will do that.”

He further said that the Malawian society is still undecided on the issue and that is why people react differently once they hear that one is indulging in homosexuality.

“You can imagine me going to my village and just say that this is my wife and I go with a fellow man, my wife would either think I’m crazy or something is wrong with me,” said Chaponda.

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Some donors, particularly United States Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer and Germany Ambassador Peter Woeste criticized government following the arrest of a suspected gay couple Cuthbert Kulemeka and Kelvin Gonani in Lilongwe two weeks ago.

In a move which has been seen as bowing down to pressure, government last Saturday issued a statement announcing a stop to the arrests and prosecution of gays in the country.

In the statement signed by Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu, government has also indicated that it plans to review penal laws.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) has welcomed the decision by Lilongwe to drop charges against the two accused persons.

In statement released on Friday, the UN asked Malawi to uphold the moratorium and thereby not arrest, detain, charge or prosecute persons engaged in consensual, same-sex activity.

“Government must put in place stronger measures with the Malawi Police Service to ensure that the moratorium is not violated. In line with the commitment of the government to the UN Human Rights Committee in 2014, the UN is looking forward to the expeditious review of Malawi’s Penal Code in line with international human rights law and avails itself to offer any support that is required in this regard,” reads the statement in part.

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