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Malawi faces two choices in gay trial judgment: Donor money or sovereignty

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Malawi news analysis

The judgment for the gay couple Steve Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga will be delivered on Tuesday. Guilty or not guilty verdict, you can be sure of a series of conundrums. Nyasa Times news analyst gives some insights into this maze in brief.

We can be sure that the judgment at the Blantyre Magistrates’ Court will be invalid, whichever way the judicial decision falls on Tuesday—guilty or not guilty verdict. A guilty verdict will be met with a furore from the international community who are agitating for tolerance in homosexuality.

The  guilty verdict is sure likely to be deemed flawed and therefore invalid, and we can be sure there will be appeals.

However, a not-guilty verdict will be valid and will be greeted with joy from people, if the court of public opinion in Malawi is anything to go by. It will be valid because the conservative southern African nation of Malawi abhors homosexuality, to the extent that,  it doesn’t not even want to give room for any discussions.

We can take our cues from the Liwonde workshop and how the police handled the organisers of the meeting to break the ice on homosexuality from different stakeholders.

The supreme law in Malawi, sadly, many a Malawian think, is as ‘pure as our culture’. The home truth about our constitution is that it has been systematically contaminated by international human rights charters, to which Malawi, blindly or not blindly so, has appended her signatures in a quest to get the benevolence from the international camaraderie. Our laws have developed much faster than our culture.

We have lived under illusion too long. The indictment of the gay couple has put our laws to test. Now our fate lies in how our courts interpret our constitution. Interpretation of the Constitution of Malawi is stipulated in Chapter II. It reminds the courts to take into account international cues. The bill of rights is outlined in Chapter IV and reminds the courts of the prohibition of discrimination based on any status. The exercise of these rights is contaminated with no restrictions or limitations of “reasonable, recognised by international human rights standards and necessary in an open and democratic society.” In enforcement, the chapter prohibits Parliament against legislating the abolition or curtailment of any laid-down right.

In any case, we can be sure that the judgment on Tuesday will be invalid whatever the verdict. Malawi is to find itself between a Scylla of choosing continued flow of donor money with its moral decadence and a Charybidis of running the country as sovereignty with some of the much-needed donor money heavily cut. We have a conundrum, where there are no clear answers as to a cause and effect. However, we can figure out, faintly though. The benevolence of Malawi would get after brooking in to homosexuality is questionable. It is a real conundrum. Ironically, the international community faces a conundrum that they know better.

There are cultural obstacles in accepting homosexuality. When we really pry under sovereignty, it is really nice. We can tolerate their tastes of cultural values in sexual orientation in this mythical fantasyland and we want them contaminated with ours. But in the heart of hearts, we know that it isn’t just on, and that is really the cultural conundrum.

What both the donor and Malawi face is a conundrum, where the market the political marketplace is demanding immediate results, but both parties know all too well that issues of this nature tend to have longer term solutions whether it is on the demand side of the donors or the supply side of the recipients. After all, it took Britain almost half a century to legalise homosexuality. However, poor Malawi must do it now now.

We have a strong economy thriving on donor money, but lots of people feel insecure if aid is cut or reduced. If the aid is cut as the fears have it, so we are going to have to work within those constraints while at the same time being mindful that the constitutional needs of Malawian people are to be met.

And we should look for creative and workable solutions to that very difficulty conundrum. I see none. May God deliver Malawi from this conundrum.


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