FULL STATEMENT: Together with others, the United Nations underscores the fundamental human rights to privacy, equality and non-discrimination. Everyone is entitled to these rights, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The United Nations welcomes the decision by the Government of Malawi to drop the charges against the two accused and through a statement issued on 18 December uphold the moratorium and thereby not arrest, detain, charge or prosecute persons engaged in consensual, same-sex activity.
It is the firm view of the United Nations that in line with the stated commitment to uphold the moratorium, 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 of Malawi in line with international human rights law and avails itself to offer any support that is required in this regard.
Recent data released by UNAIDS shows high HIV prevalence and incidence among gay men and men who have sex with men globally, including in Africa.
Structural factors, such as stigma, discrimination, violence and criminal prosecution, contribute to making members of these populations vulnerable to HIV while at the same time, driving them under-ground and hindering their access to and uptake of HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.
It is also important to reflect on the structural factors such as poverty and lack of opportunity leading young people to engage in transactional sex, that puts them at a heightened risk and level of vulnerability to diseases such as HIV and other STIs, violence and discrimination, vilification and ostracisation by their communities; and to implement appropriate policy responses in line with international human rights standards.
Poverty, vulnerability and unequal power relations between older men and young women and girls as well as young men, are one of the key drivers leading to young people putting themselves at risk because they are unable to deny sex or insist on protected sex.
In November 2015, the UN CEDAW Committee called on the Government of Malawi to repeal discriminatory provisions in the Penal Code, and eliminate discriminatory practices faced by women in sex work, including when accessing health care services and develop exit programmes, including income generating opportunities.
The United Nations deplores in the strongest terms, the violence and humiliation meted out to the two men and the hateful and vitriolic language that ensued once the story broke in the media.
None of these are considered the tenets of Malawian culture and tradition and cannot be justified as such.
Malawi is a country which is espoused and admired as the “Warm Heart of Africa”. It is our hope that this incident will open the doors for a transformational dialogue on human rights, tolerance and peaceful co-existence, regardless of one’s sex, gender, age or sexual orientation.
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