Can Joyce Banda govt decide on gays?


The Joyce Banda administration should stop embarrassing itself and make one unequivocal decision on gay rights and then get on with it.

Honestly, we have had enough of the indecision and flip-flopping that has characterised the PP administration on issues that matter in our lives.

Joyce Banda came to power after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika on a platform of reversing the wrongs of the DPP government which included its inhumane treatment of people under the minority rights.

She also promised to repair the damage that the late Mutharika caused to our relationship with major donors which was all fine, but not straightforward.

And so, the President, in her first State-of-the-Nation Address to Parliament, made it very clear that her government wanted to decriminalise homosexuality in Malawi by repealing it from the Penal Code, which I thought was fair and just.

To my dismay, after getting the heat from the conservatives in our society, she changed her mind. Arriving from New York last month, instead of being bold and straightforward about it, she told the country that Malawians will decide on homosexuality without giving the specifics of how and when.

Then this week, her Justice Minister and Attorney General Ralph Kasambara has been embroiled in heavy controversy after he refuted reports to the effect that he issued a statement announcing the country’s suspension of anti-homosexual laws to pave the way for public debate and parliamentary vote on the legislation.

The reports quoted him as saying the said suspension at a minority rights debate organised by the Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for Development of People (Cedep) in Lilongwe last week.

I do not understand how the whole media could have misquoted Kasambara on an issue said in public with international bodies such as the US-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International releasing statements commending Malawi for the said action.

Perhaps Kasambara is backtracking after being told in the face that it is both illegal and unconstitutional for not just one person, sitting in an air-conditioned office with a little flag next to him at the Capital Hill, to suspend any law and that only Parliament and the courts have such powers. But it is clear that the Banda administration wants to do something about the fact that someone can be locked up because of homosexuality. It is clear that this government wants this changed.

What I am not sure about is whether this is because it genuinely believes it is wrong and cruel, as I do, to jail someone because of sexual orientation or the whole issue is to please the international community for aid.

Either way, this government is miserably wanting on the matter. It knows the right thing to do which is to bring a bill to Parliament and let MPs debate it. The job of government is to campaign and make parliamentarians see the folly and cruelty of locking someone up because they stupidly fancy a fellow man or woman.

PP has to convince MPs that the State has no business to interfere with what happens between two consenting adults between four walls, but rather it is something that religions have to deal with if they so wish and see fit.

It is not even about culture as chiefs are saying because they cannot say with a straight face that they know and govern the sexual orientation of all their subjects in their villages. How would they do that? I have grown up in a village and I know there are homosexuals there and chiefs do not beat them up. They simply tolerate them and tag them all sorts of names.

My point in all this? The PP government should move legally on the issue of homosexuality other than embarrassing itself and Malawi by changing tune on the matter every day. It is creating an impression that it has no guts, spine or clue to take the country forward on issues that matter in today’s world

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