SA GLAAD Condemns Malawi For Anti-Human Rights Verdict
SA GLAAD strongly condemns the verdict and sentence of the Malawian court this week in the much-publicized case against Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, the two Malawians who have been sentenced to 14 years jail for being in a perceived gay relationship.
The law under which the 14-year prison sentence has been handed down is a decaying remnant of Malawi's archaic colonial past, and itself is unconstitutional as it is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. Malawi's constitution guarantees equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens.
The state of prisons and the care of inmates in Malawi is such that medical care and rations are substandard. The mortality rate in such prisons is very high and this 14-year term can in fact be equated to a death sentence. Before their conviction, this couple had already spent nearly five months behind bars, which were punctuated by reports of serious illness which were relayed from within the prison where these two people were incarcerated, despite not having committed any genuine crime or causing any harm. Descriptions of the sentence by locals include the comments that this is a harsher sentence than those given to hardened criminals in Malawi.
The South African government has an extraordinary responsibility as the only state on the African continent where sexual minorities have civil rights and equality, to support the human rights principles enshrined in our Constitution.
We urge the South African government to enter into dialog with Malawi to urge their government to institute badly needed legal reform, repeal this conviction, release Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga - or alternately to offer asylum to the couple.
We also urge the UN and nations which supply foreign aid to countries which show callous disregard for human rights in this manner, to review their policies regarding funding and aid and to attach conditions to this funding and aid. By funding governments which abuse and disregard human rights, these countries - by their commendable selfless generosity, are unwittingly bankrolling terror against innocent people.
It is our view that if governments are allowed to tell people how they may live in the privacy of their own homes and who they may love or be in a relationship with, they are on a slippery slope to oppression, despotism and aggravated human rights violations.
We condemn the draconian anti-human rights sentiments currently being displayed in Malawi and in other parts of Africa, such as Uganda - and urge the South African government to speak out against these monstrous acts.
Such things do not belong on the law books of countries which strive to grow, develop and improve themselves, and to enshrine the democratic values of human rights, freedom and equality for all.
This court verdict is a brutal condemnation of a whole community which lives in fear and in unhealthy secrecy in Malawi, and which now will be more afraid and more intimidated, and will become even more secretive and even more unhealthy.
If Malawi is serious about its commitment to human rights - and its concern about the global HIV pandemic - it will overturn this verdict, repeal discriminatory anti-human rights laws and partner with community-based groups to create a safe environment where diverse people can harmoniously co-exist.
We applaud all local and international leaders, governments, groups and individuals who have taken a stand and spoken out against this vulgar attack on human rights and encourage all people who value human rights, freedom and equality to do the same.
The South African Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SA GLAAD) is an equal civil rights advocacy group that documents and responds to homophobia and heterosexism in the South African popular media and society. Responses to defamation range from letter writing campaigns to direct action activism and protests. The goal of SA GLAAD is the elimination of anti gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex bias in reporting, media and society.