Malawi: When the rainbow covers the sky


During their first trial, their only hope of living in a country where everyone enjoys the freedom regardless of his/her sexual orientation, the two Malawian men who engaged in 2010 for being homosexuals were looked upon as outcasts.

Gift Trapence

Almost everyone, from the then president Bingu wa Mutharika, the
media, civil society organizations, faith based organizations, the
clergy, traditional leaders and a good section of the citizenry
condemned the two, Steve Chibalanga and Tionge Monjeza.

No wonder, the two lover birds were hurriedly arrested an sentenced to
14 years in prison by the Blantyre Magistrate court, a conviction
which was later dropped by Mutharika after international pressure.

This was the time the rainbow cloth was threatened, those with
minority rights were threatened and forced to live in hiding their
sexual feeling.

If the late presidents words, that homosexuals are nothing but
abnormal people, then Malawi seems to have a lot of such people, whose feelings cannot just be ignored an outcasted in each and every aspect, be it development and health sectors.

Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries which regards it as against traditional morals.

In Uganda, an MP recently introduced a bill which stipulated the death penalty could be imposed for some homosexual offences, although he has since said he now wants this changed to life in prison.

South Africa is the only African country where same-sex marriages are
legal – discrimination based on sexual orientation was banned after a
new constitution was introduced when white minority rule ended in

Malawi’s current president Joyce Banda, during her nation address
speech in Parliament recently, said she will repeal the laws that
oppress the gay community.

Banda, who assumed the presidency in April when her predecessor died,
made the announcement in her first state of the nation address.

“Indecency and unnatural acts laws shall be repealed,” she said. But
repealing a law requires a parliamentary vote, and it is unclear how
much political support Banda would have for sweeping changes in this
impoverished and conservative nation in southern Africa.

Although the president has brought hope to the condemned and
discriminated souls, some quarters still looks to be happy when the
see their fellow human beings being oppressed because of their sexual

Malawi’s Public Affairs Committee (PAC), an umbrella body of all
churches in Malawi has trashed the president’s wish to free

Addressing the press in Blantyre, PAC General Secretary Maurice
Munthari said homosexual should not be entertained as it is not only
unbiblical but also unMalawian.

“We urge the president to tread this issue very carefully,” said Munthari.

He said they are consulting with their Muslim groupings to on how best they can counter attack the move.

Homosexual issues have, for the recent time, become a hot issue
between African and foreign countries.

Executive Director for the Center of the Development of People (CEDEP) Gift Trapence, said the president’s speech to repeal the laws is a commitment of the Malawi government in protecting the rights of the

“This is a good message to both Malawians and the international
community the government is committed to respect human rights
regardless of who one is. Mind you, rights are rights whether one
likes it or not. They need to be protected even if it is one person,”
he said.

Recently, while addressing an audience of diplomats in Genever, US
secretary of state State Hilary Clinton called for the rights of gay
people to be respected.

“Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world,”
said Clinton adding that, “Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.”

Clinton did not outline sanctions for countries that fail to
reform same-sex laws, but an official memorandum directs US government agencies to consider gay rights when making aid and asylum decisions.

Her comments follow a warning by UK Prime Minister David Cameron last
month that the UK would reduce some aid to countries that refuse to
recognise gay rights.

This stills seems to be not an easy ride for the homosexuals in
Malawi, but still, a rainbow cloth looks to be covering the nation,
bringing with it faces that have been rejected to freedom.

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