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Violence against sexual minorities on the rise

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At least 50 cases of violence against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTIs or sexual minorities) have been recorded in Malawi since January this year.

This is almost double of the 26 cases that were recorded in 2013.

That regardless, the victims are afraid to report their cases to the police for fear that they will be either locked up or be ridiculed at.

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According to Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep) records, the victims were physically assaulted, having their property or business destroyed and verbally abused.

Cedep communications officer Simeon Thodi said the most recent victim was attacked by a mob two weeks ago on suspicion that s/he is a transgender person.

“Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTIs) people are human beings just like anyone else and they have rights which every other person has,” he said.

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According to Thodi, the country has over 39,000 LGBTIs or sexual minorities who seemingly are not willing to reveal their identities due to a homophobic environment that is out there.

Executive Director for Nyale Institute on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and Governance, Godfrey Kangaude, said the issue of violence against sexual minorities should be taken seriously like that of killing of people with albinism.

“Why should we only focus on albino killings and ignore LGBTIs? We all have equal dignity,” he said.

Chairperson of Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Justin Dzonzi said MHRC condemns the violence saying under the laws of Malawi, only the courts have the power to try criminal offences and mete out appropriate punishment.

“It is illegal for any member of the public to assume the powers of the courts and take the law into their own hands. It is a criminal offence to assault any person or damage the property of any such person irrespective of the circumstances. The public should always desist from carrying out mob justice activities of whatever form.

“The Commission has also condemned the propagation of hate speech against LGBTI persons,” he said.

He said Section 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, prohibits any form of discrimination of any person in any form on any grounds whatsoever, including: race; colour; sex; language; religion; political or other opinion; nationality; ethnic or social origin; disability; property; birth, or other status.

“It is a cardinal principle protected in the Constitution that persons of a homosexual orientation should not be subjected to discrimination, in any form whatsoever on the basis of their sexual orientation, perceived or actual.

“The Government affirmed this position during the recent UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR), by accepting recommendations to guarantee and safeguard effective access to health services including treatment for HIV and AIDS by people of the LGBTI community, among other related recommendations,” Dzonzi said.

MHRC has also condemned the actions of authorities that have subjected LGBTI to compulsory medical tests on account of their perceived or actual homosexual orientation, as this, among other things, contravenes the fundamental right to human dignity guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.

“The Commission has also recommended to Government to be decisive and move towards adopting a consistent and conclusive position with respect to the issue of LGBTI,” he said.

National police deputy spokesperson Thomeck Nyaude said the police do not deal with assault issues in view of one’s sexual orientation.

“We haven’t received any of sexual violence cases but we have recorded cases of assault and others in their normal context. Even if someone was assaulted on the basis that the perpetrators thought s/he is a sexual minority, we treat them as any other victim because we respect people’s human rights,” he said.

Nyaude said sexual violence is an offence punishable by law because even when the police arrest a suspect, they are taken to court.

“It’s not true that LGBTIs are ridiculed when they report such issues to the police. We arrest gays when we catch them in the act not based on verbal reports. This is not done verbally but through action…,”he said.

According to MHRC under article 2 (1) of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, (ICCPR), to which Malawi is a party, member states undertake to respect and to ensure that all individuals within their territories and subject to their jurisdictions are guaranteed the rights recognized in the covenant, without distinction of any kind.

Similarly article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), guarantees the right of every individual the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the Charter without distinction of any kind.

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