'Queer Malawi' opens lid on same sex relations

Gay couple Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R) appear before a magistrate court in Blantyre in this January 4, 2010. A new book on same-sex relationships has been released in Malawi. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW 

Though still a secret subject in many quarters in Africa, the same-sex question has come from the closet to the shelf with a new book Queer Malawi: Untold Stories; making a bold statement on the same according to a Malawian daily-Nyasa Times.

In most countries on the continent, once the same sex relationship become known, the punishments that come with it for those involved are severe.

It carries with it stiffer penalties like several years in prison (for instance, in Malawi, it is 14), isolation by the society and what is known as ‘corrective’ rape with a view that such forcible acts would turn a gay person straight. Some gays are not lucky as they are stoned to death. An example is the recent murder and rape of South African lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza.

This notwithstanding, Queer Malawi: Untold Stories; is determined to lift the lid on the subject in hope that it will reduce stigma associated with the same.

Sodomy and indecency

Queer Malawi: Untold Stories; is a collection of 12 untold stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) men and women published by Malawi’s Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) and South Africa’s Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (Gala).

The 12 stories are meant to invoke compassion and support for the rights of African LGBT individuals to live without fear within and beyond Malawi alongside their heterosexual counterparts.

According to the report, the book was compiled last year during the high profile trial of two Malawian men, who were charged with sodomy and indecency.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza spent several months in the cooler after their public engagement to be married in December 2009, leading to an international outcry with the Western powers and rights groups shouting their voices hoarse.

The couple was later released on condition that they have no further contact following the intervention of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who called on President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Africa’s LGBT individuals remain largely invisible since homosexuality is illegal in most countries.

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