Originally published in African Activist »
Malawi's parliament passed a bill criminalising sex between two women and it now goes to President Bingu wa Mutharika for his signature. Malawi's penal code currently prohibits sex between two men and the law was applied in the case of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza who were sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for celebrating their love with a traditional same-sex ceremony. The couple were pardoned by President Bingu wa Muthairka on May 30th. The expansion of the law criminalising homosexuality has drawn condemnation from the Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi and the German government, the "Nyasa Times" reports.
The Malawian parliament has passed a bill proposed by the Government to criminalize homosexuality between women which has attracted criticism from Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi and German government.
Unlike homosexual relations between men, female homosexuality was not previously contained in the penal code. The bill was introduced as a bid to ensure greater equality between men and women.
Markus Löning, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, said in a statement in reaction to the law: "The German Government sees the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality as a core human rights concern. In this regard, the criminalization of female homosexuality in Malawi is a serious setback."
"I urge President Mutharika of Malawi not to sign this legislation and instead to honour his declared commitment to work for the decriminalization of homosexuality in his country."
The Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi through its Executive Director George Thindwa said in a statement that Attorney General Dr. Jane Assah should resign because of conflict interest as she is a Bishop of a Pentecostal Christian Church a development that is inconsistent with her role as an impartial advisor to government on legal matters.
"We are concerned that her extreme religious beliefs and personal moral code may be a cause for bias in the general application of constitutional human rights in respect of homosexuals. She should recuse herself from giving official opinions or representing Malawi on such issues," reads the statement made available to "Nyasa Times."
Secular Humanism said criminalization of homosexuals is a retrogressive and unconstitutional move as "the private behaviour of consenting adults that does no harm to another is no legitimate concern of the state."
"Individual's or group's perception of what is repulsive, likewise, has no place in our laws. Knowledge changes with time. Current scientific knowledge as to the causes of homosexuality clearly shows that it is genetic or that it occurs in the womb," said the statement.
It adds: "While it is not the normal natural state it is, in fact, a natural state. Homosexuals have no choice as to sexuality. Homosexuality may be considered as a third sex. There should be no criminalisation of a condition that is natural."
The association observes that "there are many Malawian homosexuals who have never had any contact with westerners or so-called 'homosexual culture.'"
The association urges President Bingu wa Mutharika to "withhold consent to the Bill."
Attorney General Dr. Jane Assah recently appeared before the UN Human Rights Council for Malawi's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland where she defended Malawi's treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.
After negotiating the release of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had asked Members of Parliament to update laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation to reflect international standards.