Gay rights in Malawi
Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga -Image via Strong And Equal

By Thokozani M. Sande

The Laws of Malawi criminalize same-sex sexual acts. Persons found engaging in same-sex sexual acts are penalized by the maximum sentence of 14 years in prison with hard labor. This law is as old as the Malawi Republic.

After more than 50 years of independence, Malawi cannot continue to be governed by laws rooted in worn-out beliefs. Laws should be dynamic and change with the times. There is no valid basis for the law that criminalizes same-sex sexual acts.

Ironically it is the religious bodies that advocate for retention of the anti-gay laws. When the Malawi Government attempted to soften the law in 2012, the Malawi Council of Churches fiercely protested the Government attempt, and forced the Government to backtrack and keep the law as it has always been from colonial times.

The Muslims have also been extremely vocal in their support of anti-gay laws. In September 2017, the Muslim Association went as far as to suggest that gays be arrested and killed.

There is no valid basis for anti-gay laws both in cultural or religious faith. Culture changes with time. There used to be laws against miniskirts. Time changed and mini skirt laws became no more. The core of religious teachings is love. How can love be reconciled with hatred against gay persons?

We read in the Bible ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Matthew 22:36-40. The bible does not define neighbor as a person of the same sex. The Bible teaches about love of humanity, without regard to the sex of the person. Churches cannot teach love your neighbor, but then tell Christians that gay people are evil and that being gay is a sin. How can you love your neighbor but hate them at the same time?

In December 2009, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Malawi’s first openly gay couple was arrested. The couple was sentenced to 14 years in prison for simply loving each other.

Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa, the man who convicted these two men stated the two men having sex was “against the order of nature.”

The problem with this statement is that it’s homophobic and incorrect. The order of nature does not exist when it comes to sexuality, because as humans, we create what’s “normal” and “abnormal.”
The notion of the order of nature involving sexuality is simply something that comes from opinions rather than fact.

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Peter Tatchell, a veteran British gay rights campaigner, received a message from Chimbalanga while he was serving his maximum security term, saying: “I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”

The fact that a man would die in prison for another man he loves, truly shows the immorality of Malawi. In 20l6, the High Court in Mzuzu, ordered the Malawi Police and the Director of Public Prosecution to arrest anyone who engages in same-sex acts. Judge Dingiswayo Madise made the order in Mzuzu stating that anyone who disobeyed the order would be guilty of contempt of court. Unfortunately, the situation did not get better because in 2017 two men, Chancy Ntawali and Nickson Chamboko, were arrested for engaging in same-sex acts.

It is 2018, the old notions against gays should not be allowed to persist. The majority of religious people are against homosexuality; they say that God prohibits same-sex relationships. The Bible does not say that two people of the same gender should not be together.

United Methodist pastor, Jimmy Creech stated, “The Bible says nothing about “homosexuality” as an innate dimension of personality. Sexual orientation was not understood in Biblical times. There are references in the Bible to same-gender sexual behavior, and all of them are undeniably negative. But what is condemned in these passages is the violence, idolatry, and exploitation related to the behavior, not the same-gender nature of the behavior.”

The bible has never stated that homosexuality is in any way wrong. As stated in the quote, sexual orientation was not understood yet in biblical times. Thus, there was no way that it can be said that same sex-sexual orientation was frowned upon.

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Homosexuality does not negatively impact anyone. Religious people who harbour homophobic views do not realize that they’re spreading more hate than love. If you want peace and love in the world, project peace, and love.

Why is it everyone’s business on what a person’s sexual orientation is? How does one’s sexual preference affect other people’s lifestyle and wellbeing?

It is high time for Malawi to change its anti-gays laws change. No one should be punished for loving a person of their choice. Loving a person is a fundamental human right. No one should be denied the right to choose who he or she loves. People ought to learn to mind their own business.

No religious body should be parading as the authority on who to love. God gave each person the individual gift of love and power to love. No Government, religious body or individual, should have God’s authority to interfere with a right that God gave to each person.

The Laws of Malawi that criminalize same-sex sexual acts should be removed now to enable people to enjoy their God-given freedoms. Legalizing same sex does not mean gays will be engaging in sex in public. No heterosexuals are allowed to engage in sex in public. There is therefore no basis for fearing legalization of same sex.

Time for change in Malawi.

Thokozani M. Sande is a contributor of the Maravi Post.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Publisher or the Editor of the Maravi Post.

EDITOR’S FACT-CHECK: As much as the Maravi Post gives every contributor the right to express their opinions, there are instances when a Fact-Check is necessary, so as to avoid crystalize anomalies or turn opinions into fact.

The Bible mentions homosexuality in both the Old and the New Testament.

Christians, Muslims and Jews hold that the Holy Scriptures are God’s inspired word.

1. 22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination. – Leviticus 18:22 King James Version (KJV)

2. 26 for this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. – Romans 26-27

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