Monday, September 3, 2012

Scrap sodomy laws - Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula

Kabwila-Kapasula - Remove sodomy laws
Scrapping sodomy laws and including Men who have sex with men (MSM) in the fight against HIV and Aids is vital if the war against the disease is to be effectively won.

Homosexuality is currently a crime in Malawi and MSMs risk 14 year sentences when arrested so the community operates underground despite having a high HIV prevalence rate.

Homosexuality is also an issue that touches on patriarchy and how society constructs male and female roles.

Chancellor College lecturer Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula said this in Liwonde recently during a training workshop on sexual minority rights and the media organized by the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep).

Presenting a paper on the ‘Gender Perspective on Sexual Minority Rights Issues which included sexuality, gender identity and sexual orientations, Kabwila explained how research shows that there is a risk of bisexuals spreading the virus to their wives or female partners.

“In Malawi, we are using colonial laws that come from colonization.  Our laws need to articulate the current situation, we have Malawians who are bisexuals, gays, lesbians, transgender, intersex....who can spread the disease.

“These laws need to go....sodomy laws the way they are have an impact on blackmailing we have many reports of MSM being blackmailed which pushes them further underground,” added Kapasula.

She added that Malawi cannot afford to define gender in a polarized way with the definition of a woman being constructed by society.

However, churches and chiefs disagree with Kabwila’s views and feel that homosexuals should continue to be arrested because what they do is a “crime”.

In an interview, Pastor Mario Manyozo of Holy Spirit Charismatic church said since the Bible does not accept homosexuality, Malawi as well should not accept it.

“The Bible is the Law of God.  The Bible is not amended.  It’s a sin so also in a nation like Malawi homosexuality is a sin, they should be arrested, even in the Bible they should be arrested because it’s a sin,” said Pastor Manyozo while citing 1 Corinthians 6:16.   

Many other religious leaders are also against sodomy laws being repealed and want homosexuals to serve stiff sentences for their sins.  Others are of the view that repealing homosexuality laws which criminalize the act is the same as permitting same-sex marriages.

Trapence:  Repealing sodomy laws not  gay marriages
But in a separate interview, Gift Trapence, executive director for Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) observed how the gay issue has been politicised for the past three years with a lot of misinformation using the public media where chiefs and traditional leaders “were paraded to misinform the nation" on state television and radio.

He said it was vital that gay people are looked at as equals just like any other citizen of Malawi. Trapence also expressed concern how the issue of repealing the sodomy law is being wrongly referred to as allowing gay marriages when they are two different things.

“The terms that are being used you find a lot of stereotypes in those terms, even now we still have a challenge because we are coming from that background...some think that if we take out sodomy we are legalizing gay marriages and that is not the case because in our case we have the Marriage Act which recognizes marriage as being between a man and a woman.”

“There are different steps to be taken to reach the level of recognizing gay marriages. People refer to the US saying that they don’t agree, some states accept gay marriages while some don’t.  States agree on one thing, not discriminating against someone based on sexual orientation, the issue of equality and that’s what we are talking about repealing the sodomy laws are inconsistent with our constitution section 20 that is the supreme law of this land” added Trapence.

Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of the Sirius star. this space.