Britain’s Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association GALHA has condemned as “obscene” the punishment of 14 years imprisonment meted out to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga by a court in Malawi, for the alleged “crime” of buggery. There are also reports that the couple have been mistreated while in custody awaiting trial.
This is the latest sign of increased persecution of gay people in many African countries. Bizarrely, attempts are being made to present homosexuality as an alien “European” phenomenon, despite the fact that laws used to persecute gay people were frequently (as in Malawi) actually imposed on the country by European colonial powers. Religions, and in particular evangelical Christians competing with hard-line Moslems have been actively encouraging hostility towards gay people, which has also contributed to this wave of repression.
GALHA Chair Adam Knowles commented:
“We would like to express our disgust at the way this couple has been treated, and our contempt for governments that use discredited colonial laws to persecute their own citizens for the “crime” of being gay and wishing to enjoy a family life, including the right to loving relationships. We also condemn the role that religion, especially many branches of Christianity and Islam have played in fuelling the fires of hostility towards gay people, both in Africa and elsewhere.
“While most religions are, at best, deeply ambivalent towards homosexuality, Humanists see gay relationships as no better or worse than straight ones, having the potential to be every bit as loving, committed and beneficial to society. Gay people in Africa have the same right to live without fear as elsewhere in the world.”
“To add absurdity to iniquity, these laws serve to prevent open, stable long-term relationships and encourage secretive, fleeting and clandestine ones, exactly the kinds of conditions in which AIDS and other serious diseases are most likely to flourish.
“We call upon the Government of Malawi and of other former colonies to rid themselves of the shackles of colonialism by repealing these monstrous laws.
We urge Britain’s new government, and the rest of the EU, to use its influence in the Commonwealth, the UN and elsewhere to apply pressure wherever it is likely to be effective.
“We also urge the government to ensure that its positive words on asylum for gay people facing persecution are reflected in actions, and that we don’t see any more cases of gay people being sent to face lives of repression, fear and possible violence, as still appears to be happening.”