Activists on Monday lobbied visiting UN Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang to urge Lilongwe to implement Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations, including respect for sexual minority rights.
Speaking on the human rights situation in Malawi, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence said the new government has started on a good note by repealing some “bad laws” enacted during the late president Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s regime.
Trapence said it is encouraging that President Joyce Banda has indicated her administration is ready to repeal “the discriminatory” sodomy laws after consultations.
Said Trapence: “We know it will not be easy to achieve [that] as the nation is highly divided on this, especially among traditional and religious sectors of our society.
“Unlike the previous regime which used to manipulate the general public by accusing CSOs [civil society organisations] and the donor community that they are advancing same sex marriages, the Presidentâ€™s announcement has in fact set space for free deliberations on sexual minority rights which is key in making informed decisions in any democratic society.”
In her remarks, Non-Governmental Organisations Gender Coordination Network chairperson Emma Kaliya said with the flocking of people to the ruling Peopleâ€™s Party within Parliament and outside, there is fear the country may slide back to the situation it was in during Mutharikaâ€™s government.
Council for Non Governmental Organisations in Malawi chairperson Voice Mhone said although the 20-point petition was presented to the late president, the expectation is that the new government will implement the issues raised.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa Malawi Chapter) told the visiting envoy that the media will remain vigilant in its role of holding those in authority accountable and that it will campaign for the enactment of the Access to Public Information Bill.
Safari Mbewe, who represented the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV and Aids, said the persisting lack of drugs, especially in public hospitals, is a violation of their right to health.
Kang, who is on four-day visit, said preparation for her tour of Malawi started immediately after the July 2011 demonstrations during which 20 people were killed.
“We were coming to deliver a very hard message to the authorities. We were very concerned about what happened. We were also very concerned about the intimidation and threats issued to human rights defenders and lack of freedom of expression,” said Kang.