African civil society organisations have slammed a 14-year jail sentence with hard labour for a Malawian gay couple, convicted of violating “the order of nature” after staging a same sex wedding.
Malawi is not ready to see its sons getting married to its sons
The organisations say: “[We] call on Malawian authorities to repeal discriminatory laws criminalising private sexual behaviour”. “The conviction and sentence is a travesty which has set back Malawi’s efforts to address the HIV pandemic”.
The organisations reacting were: the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (Arasa) the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc), the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) and the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).
CEDEP executive director Gift Trapence said research showed that laws restricting and criminalising homosexuality hampered efforts to combat HIV.
“Indeed, government officials have acknowledged the importance of not driving key populations underground in order to effectively address HIV”
Undule Mwakasungura, director of CHRR said: “This conviction and sentence raises serious concerns regarding the human rights of all individuals in Malawi… protecting human rights is not a western issue, it is a Malawian issue.”
Priti Patel, programme manager at Salc, said the attacks on homosexuality from political leaders were less about personal values and more about politics and power.
The couple was arrested on December 28, after their wedding and have been in jail ever since. They were convicted two days ago.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and several other African countries.
“I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example,” magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa reportedly told the couple in the courtroom in the capital Blantyre.
“Malawi is not ready to see its sons getting married to its sons.”
It was also reported that as the couple was escorted away under heavy police guard, hundreds of curious onlookers outside the court shouted at them, with one woman yelling, “Malawi should never allow homosexuality at any cost”.
The sentence could be appealed in the high court.
The SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has called on SADC countries and the African Union to disassociate themselves from the judgement, and further to urge the immediate release of the two individuals concerned.
“Homosexuality exists in all of our societies. It is a reality, however difficult it is for some to accept this simple fact. Incarcerating innocent couples who just happen to be of the same sex serves no purpose other than to feed the cancer of discrimination”.