The debate refuses to die. Probably, only a referendum can resolve it once and for all. This is the view of some Malawians.
They suggest President Joyce Banda should call for a referendum for them to decide through the ballot on whether the country should decriminalize homosexuality.
This suggestion was recommended during a district sensitization workshop on universal periodic review and recommendations which the United Nations – UN – is pushing Malawi to fine tune in some of its legislation deemed to violate international treaties on human rights.
Out of several recommendations made in the 2011-2015 universal periodic reviews document, formulated by the Malawi Human Right Commission – MHRC – homosexuality seems to have attracted the ultimate attention.
This comes at a time when Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mr Ralph Kasambara said the country had suspended anti-gay laws.
This however had attracts mixed reaction with the Malawi Law Society rating the move as unconstitutional.
“Government should make wide consultation on the homosexuality issue and ensure that views of rural masses are also incorporated before the repealing the law,” said one of the participants at a district sensitization workshop in Kasungu.
He argued the constitution is a supreme law of the land and any amendments should be accepted by the citizenry.
“Malawians in the village must be heard through a referendum, otherwise we should not make previous mistakes where the constitution was amended by the previous governments, later another government comes in repealing the same laws,” the meeting recommended.
Human rights defenders claim the current legislation which criminalizes homosexuality is a gross violation of rights of minorities such as gays and lesbians.
Proposals to scrap off anti homosexual legislation have also been rejected by religious and traditional zealots in Malawi who perceive homosexuality as ungodly and a taboo.
Last year, the UN made 129 recommendations in relation to human rights laws in Malawi. Out of these, 77 were accepted by the administration of the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s with 44 rejected while 14 were neither denied nor accepted. Homosexuality was among those rejected.
The Joyce Banda administration is yet to make its stand clear whether it will accept the homosexuality in the interest of international treaties which Malawi is a signatory.
Meanwhile, MHRC is on an awareness raising campaign on the UN’s recommendations engaging district executive committees before Malawi submits another human rights report to the UN for assessment.