Malawi gives gay couple 14 years in jail; public cheers
A Malawi court today sentenced a gay couple to 14 years in jail for practicing homosexuality. The case has brought criticism from the US and Europe, which provide more than 40 percent of Malawi's government budget.
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Criticism also came from The Common Approach to Budgetary Support (Cabs), an aid coordinator made up of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Norway, Britain, Germany, the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Commission. Cabs contributes about $500 million to Malawi's government, or about 40 percent of the budget.Skip to next paragraph
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“Laws criminalizing homosexuality and gender identity criminalize the legitimate exercise of these human rights, which are protected in treaties ratified by Malawi, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights,” read the statement.
It was unclear, however, if the conviction would translate into reduced donor funding.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, also condemned the ruling and called for the pair's release. Amnesty warned that the convictions risk driving other gay Malawian's underground, making it more difficult for them to have access to information on HIV prevention and health services. In Malawi, nearly 1 million people – an estimated 12 percent of the population – are living with HIV.
“Sending two to prison won’t solve the problem," says Undule Mwakasungura, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation.
“Nobody was harmed by their consensual actions. There was no complaint or victim and these are the issues we have to look at,” says Gift Trapence, executive director of the Center Development of People (Cedep).
Law reflects public sentement
But despite the criticism and risk of losing donor support, Malawi's anti-homosexuality law appears to roundly reflect popular sentiment here and across Africa, where 37 countries ban homosexuality outright.
Bartholomew Kawina, a local journalist who lives the southern town of Balaka, says that he believes homosexuality is against nature. “They [homosexuals] are here because of procreation," says Kawina. "In my view homosexuals have a big problem. To me homosexuality does not make sense."
Ernest Mahwayo, 30, who lives in the village of Ntcheu, says the court was merely following "the laws of Malawi."
"Homosexuality is viewed as something dirty, unhealthy, and very much against Malawian culture," he says.
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