Stop harassing LGBT minorities in Malawi, say Members of the European Parliament

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga

Malawian police recently arrested Peter Sawali, 21, for putting up posters stating “Gay rights are human rights” on a busy road in Blantyre, the country’s commercial capital. The posters were confiscated. Sawali faces a fine of MWK 5,000 (EUR 25) and up to three months in prison.

This arrest follows the case of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who performed a traditional marriage ceremony in December 2009, and now face up to 14 years’ imprisonment. Responding to widespread international criticism of their prosecution, Kondwani Nankuluma of the Malawian Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee recently declared to Africa News: “We are following our laws and proceeding with the case for the two in the courts. […] Why do they keep pestering us to release the two?”

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, commented: “Malawi is a sovereign nation, and its laws should be respected; but using post-colonial laws to oppress citizens instead of protecting them is unworthy of any sovereign nation in the world. If Malawian authorities want to stop being ‘pestered’, they must first live up to the legal commitments they made when signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, and enacting the Bill of Rights in their constitution.” Michael Cashman continued: “Given that Malawi is now chairing the African Union, it is incumbent upon them to uphold the human rights of all their citizens, and that includes lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-president of the Intergroup, added: “It isn’t just about the rights of sexual minorities, as reminded in the UN Joint Statement of December 2008, which was signed by 67 countries including Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius and São Tome and Principe. It’s also about freedom of expression, which is universally recognised in all the international treaties to which Malawi is signatory.”

The trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga is set to continue with a hearing today. Its outcome will be decisive in influencing the country’s stance towards LGBT minorities.