The United Nations Human Rights Committee has once again urged Malawi to decriminalise consensual same-sex among consenting adults to remove stigma and discrimination such persons suffer.
In the recommendations after Malawi appeared before the committee in Geneva, Switzerland, it says it is concerned that consensual same-sex sexual activity among consenting adults was still criminalised.
It also expresses concern about reports of cases of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons and that, due to the stigma, such persons do not enjoy effective access to health services.
“The State Party should review its legislation to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity among the prohibited grounds of discrimination and repeal the provisions that criminalise homosexuality and other consensual sexual activities among adults,” it says.
The UN has also urged Malawi to introduce a mechanism to monitor cases of violence against LGBTI persons and undertake all necessary measures to prevent those cases, prosecute the perpetrators and compensate the victims
It also wants government to ensure that public officials refrain from using language that encourages violence and raise awareness to eliminate stereotyping and discrimination and guarantee access to health services, including HIV and Aids treatment, for LGBTI persons.
The committee has expressed concern over Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) lack of a decisive stand on issues of consensual same-sex rights.
Says the committee: “The reluctance of the commission to engage on issues related to the rights of LGBTI persons is also a source of concern for the committee.”
“The commission should fully comply with its mandate and engage on all human rights issues, including those related to the rights of LGBTI persons,” it says.
The UN has also expressed concern that MHRC does not function fully independently and has recommended the amendment of the Human Rights Commission Act to ensure that it enjoys full independence, in line with the Paris Principles.
“The State party should also provide the commission with adequate financial and human resources and establish mechanisms for the consideration and implementation of the commission’s recommendations,” says the committee.
The committee says as the Second Optional Protocol clocks 25 years, Malawi should accede to it by abolishing the death penalty.
It also says government should facilitate prosecution of alleged perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, “complete expeditiously all the process that have been already initiated, punish those who are convicted, and protect, rehabilitate and compensate the victims.”
Centre for the Development of People executive director Gift Trapence has appealled to government to seriously consider the UN concerns about human rights.
Said Trapence: “As CSOs, we will monitor the implementation of the recommendations put forward to the Malawi Government.”
“It is our expectation that the new government will be committed to fulfilling its obligation to protect its citizens by meeting international human rights standards,” he says.
Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Janet Banda told the UN when she appeared before the committee that the review of laws that criminalise consensual same sex was stalled due to lack of funding.