Malawi on the spot over gay arrest By REX CHIKOKO | Friday, January 15   2010 at  18:47

In Summary

  • International organisations urge Malawians to fight arrest of gays
  • IAS says move could compromise HIV prevention
  • Amnesty International calls for unconditional release of detained couple

The International Aids Society (IAS) has condemned the arrest of the two Malawian gays.

The condemnation comes barely days after Amnesty International and Scottish MPs also criticised the arrest.

The two love-birds, Mr Steven Monjeza, 26, and Mr Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, have already been arraigned in court.

The case against them has, however, been adjourned indefinitely because Mr Chimbalanga is down with Malaria.

In a letter addressing IAS members in Malawi, the lobby president, Mr Julio Montaner, and the executive director, Mr Robin Gorna, said the arrest would prohibit frank discussions of sexuality and the provision of condoms and health information to men and women engaging in same-sex behaviour in Malawi.

“This arrest could seriously compromise proven HIV prevention initiatives.

Same-sex behaviour

“As a global association of professionals working in HIV/Aids, the IAS and our 14,000 members unequivocally reject any efforts to criminalise consensual same-sex behaviour or HIV status,” said the press release.

IAS said the types of laws used to criminalise the two gays contradicted all evidence of how best to respond to the Aids epidemic.

“Certainly, you know well in Malawi that this type of criminalisation of sexuality will fuel a culture of fear that will further drive sexual minorities underground and away from vital health information and services, including HIV prevention, treatment and care,” the report said in part.

And Malawi is not the only country on the spot about gay issues. In October of last year, IAS urged Uganda’s political and health leaders to oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently pending in Uganda’s parliament.

Amnesty International, in a public statement published on January 6, called for the unconditional release of the gay couple.

“The arrest of the two men, solely for their real or perceived sexual orientation, amounts to discrimination and it is in violation of their rights to freedom of conscience, expression and privacy;'' said Amnesty.

Signed a motion

In the UK, more than 20 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) have signed a motion condemning the arrest and trial of Mr Monjeza and Mr Chimbalanga.

A motion that was moved by Mr Joe FitzPatrick for Dundee West said: "Although Scotland does not have an official foreign policy role - that is reserved to Westminster - this is an important issue of human rights and we must speak up and mobilise public opinion in Scotland against these discriminatory and illegal arrests."

London-based human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who assisted in drafting the motion said: "Despite having made a successful transition to democracy, Malawi is now abusing the human rights of these men. It is very sad."

Meanwhile, Malawi police, on January 4, 2010, arrested an HIV/Aids activist, Mr Bunker Kamba, of the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), for possessing what police allege to be pornographic material.

Mr Bunker Kamba was arrested after police seized the material the organisation he uses to educate men on HIV/Aids. He was released on bail.