Posts Tagged 'Malawi'

The first anniversary of the Malawi gay arrests

by David Jones, CEDEP-Malawi US Volunteer

Whether in December you celebrate Ashura, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, the Solstice, or the Gregorian or Islamic New Year, please remember Tiwonge Chimbalanga in your prayers.  Things are not going well.

We haven’t heard much lately, the result of a request to let quiet diplomacy work on asylum.

Meanwhile Tiwonge is suffering and safety is becoming a more relevant consideration than patience.

In recent weeks:  Tiwonge went to Blantyre to get her passport, stayed with a relative, a crowd gathered and circled the house, and the relative asked her to leave.  In Lilongwe Tiwonge had malaria and needed to see a doctor.  A threatening crowd gathered at the public health centre and she had to leave.  It happened again when Tiwonge needed to have a tooth pulled, and she had to sneak into a private clinic at night.

Tiwonge is hiding in a house in a neighborhood of Lilongwe.  The house is also used as an office.  The houses there are small.  The bedrooms are the size of many walk-in closets in the US.  There is no privacy and the strain on everyone is becoming enormous.  Recently when staff were away one night Tiwonge walked the short distance to a rough commercial area where there are shops, a traditional market, men hanging around fires looking for piecework, petrol stations, a truck stop and several bars.  She was recognized and seriously beaten, and had her only valuable possession stolen, her cell phone.

Since we cannot tell when there may be a response on asylum there is a discussion now of moving Tiwonge to South Africa for her safety.  There are organizations that may be able to host Tiwonge there and provide support while we wait (Malawians have easy entry into South Africa although the time she can spend there is limited, and there is a backlash against African immigration, so this is not a permanent solution.).  Moving may even strengthen her case by highlighting the clear risk to her safety in Malawi.  Discussions will begin on this option now.  If this is possible I may be asking you for help in moving Tiwonge.  MCC-New York has just made a donation to Tiwonge which will arrive just in time for Christmas!

December 28th will be the first anniversary of the Malawi gay arrests.  Please take some note of this.  Tiwonge was pardoned but is not free.  Tiwonge is still confined, and living with emotional trauma and physical danger.

Please take some time this December to try to send Tiwonge some strength as you celebrate in your own way this season’s hope for new beginnings.

Gays in Africa face growing persecution, activists say

repost from the Washington Post

By Sudarsan Raghavan
Washington Post | Foreign Service
Sunday, December 12, 2010; A12

KAMPALA, UGANDA – Persecution of gays is intensifying across Africa, fueled by fundamentalist preachers, intolerant governments and homophobic politicians. Gay people have been denied access to health care, detained, tortured and even killed, human rights activists and witnesses say.

The growing tide of homophobia comes at a time when gays in Africa are expressing themselves more openly, prompting greater media attention and debates about homosexuality. The rapid growth of Islam and evangelical forms of Christianity, both espousing conservative views on family values and marriage, have persuaded many Africans that homosexuality should not be tolerated in their societies.

“It has never been harder for gays and lesbians on the continent,” said Monica Mbaru, Africa coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in Cape Town. “Homophobia is on the rise.”

Fearing for their lives, many activists are in hiding or have fled their countries.

In Uganda, a bill introduced in parliament last year would impose the death penalty for repeated same-sex relations and life imprisonment for other homosexual acts. Local newspapers are outing gays, potentially inciting the public to attack them, activists say.

A day after a newspaper article said that gays should be hanged, Sheila Hope Mugisha became a target. As the prominent gay rights activist neared her home, she said, boys from the neighborhood threw stones at the gate and chanted, “You are a homo.” Mugisha ran inside and locked the door. She didn’t leave for several days.

“Here, homosexuality is like you have killed someone,” she said.

American gay activists have sent money to help the community here. Western governments – including aid donors – have vocally criticized the bill and denounced the treatment of gays.

That has angered conservative pastors here, many of whom are influenced by American anti-gay Christian groups and politicians who say that African values are under attack by Western attitudes. They say their goal is to change the sexual behavior of gays, not to physically harm them.

“In Uganda, we look at homosexuality as an abomination. It is not normal,” said Nsaba Butoro, Uganda’s minister on ethics and integrity and a vocal supporter of the bill. “You are talking about a clash of cultures. The question is: Which culture is superior, the African one or the Western one?” Continue Reading

Malawi’s parliament has adopted a bill criminalizing consensual sex between women

Malawi’s parliament has adopted a bill criminalizing consensual sex between women. Malawi’s President must now decide whether to sign the bill into law. Malawi’s penal code currently prohibits homosexual relations between men but not between women.

Editor’s Letter: Working toward making international human rights a bigger priority.

From The Advocate September 2010

By Jon Barrett


When news of Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill broke last year, there was a sense of—in my head at least—There go those crazy African despots again. I was horrified, of course, but I don’t think I fully grasped the human implications of the hatred brewing in Uganda until I heard about Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza in nearby Malawi.

These two were jailed after conducting what officials deemed an illegal same-sex commitment ceremony. Sentenced to 14 years in prison, they were pardoned five months later after international pressure forced President Mutharika’s hand. The whole ordeal, sparked by a desire we all share—to express our love openly—ruined life as they knew it.

Which brings us back to Uganda. Jeff Sharlet, who expertly wrote about America’s ties to homophobia in that country in his 2008 book, The Family, explains in our cover story that the hatred in Uganda is only strengthening—and spreading across the continent.

His piece—and the Malawi story—serve as wake-up calls: I can no longer dismiss this kind of homophobia as the work of isolated despotism, and more important, The Advocate needs to make international human rights—people’s right to live—as big a priority as we do the rights to marry, work free of discrimination, and serve openly in the military. We can’t do it all in one issue, but this is our first step.

Getting the Best of Both Worlds – Progress on Global LGBT Issues

State Dept prior to Sec. Clinton's speech from left to right: Sybille Nyeck, Gift Trapence, Julius Kaagwa, Cary Alan Johnson, and Mark Bromley photo: Bronwynne Pereira

It was hard to keep a dry eye when Secretary of State Clinton introduced four LGBT activists from Uganda, Malawi, Cameroon, and South Africa to a packed auditorium at the State Department as part of her Pride address to the foreign service.  It was a highlight in the long struggle for equality for LGBT people to have the Secretary of State declare, “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights – once and for all!”  Human rights defender Gift Trapence of Malawi expressed afterwards how powerful it was to have the Secretary of State of the United States look him in the eye with respect, since he is still considered a pariah at home because of his work on behalf of LGBT Malawians.

Amanda Cary (AJWS), Cary Alan Johnson (IGLHRC), Mark Bromley (CGE), Gift Trapence (CEDEP - Malawi), Julius Kaagwa (SIPD - Uganda), Sybille Nyeck (Cameroon), Julie Dorf (CGE), Stephanie DiBello (HRF), Bronwynne Periera (South Africa). This photo was taken prior to the meeting with the National Security Council staff. photo: Bronwynne Pereira

The Secretary announced a number of policy advancements, including the inclusion of gender identity in the employment policies at State, as well as the changes to passport procedures for transgender Americans. She strongly encouraged the regional bureaus to work harder on integrating LGBT issues into their work plans, and into public diplomacy programs. She also announced new attentiveness to the plight of LGBT refugees. But most importantly, she spoke with an ease and genuineness about sexual orientation and gender identity issues and about LGBT people and culture that was the most meaningful take-away from the speech.

Julius Kaagwa photo:Bronwynne Pereira

That same week, the four activists and organizational members of the Council—IGLHRC, OSI, AJWS, and Human Rights First—met with the Africa Bureau at the State Department,held another standing-room only briefing for staffers in Congress, and met with officials from the National Security team at the White House. The White House is also deepening its response to the human rights of LGBT people globally. During our meeting there, Julius Kaagwa of Uganda thanked the White House staff for the President’s public and behind-the-scenes interventions on the anti-gay law that was pending in Uganda just months ago.

For those of us in the United States who have been working on the international human rights of LGBT people, last week’s events were satisfying because we have never seen the U.S. government respond in that way. We have the best of both worlds, with Barack Obama in the White House and Hillary Clinton as our Secretary of State. It is up to us to ensure that we make the very best use of these two incredible LGBT allies who are now in powerful positions that impact the real lives of LGBT people around the world.

Center for the Development of People (CEDEP)-Malawi

Government has announced that the pardon for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga is for the sentence only and that if the two men do not end their relationship they can be rearrested. Find out more—gay-prisoners-freed.html

Statement by the Press Secretary on Today’s Pardoning in Malawi

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 29, 2010

Statement by the Press Secretary on Today’s Pardoning in Malawi

The White House is pleased to learn of President Bingu wa Mutharika’s pardon of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza. These individuals were not criminals and their struggle is not unique. We must all recommit ourselves to ending the persecution and criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. We hope that President Mutharika’s pardon marks the beginning of a new dialogue which reflects the country’s history of tolerance and a new day for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in Malawi and around the globe.

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