Malawi CSOs raise rights concerns at UN

Malawi Civil society organisations (CSOs) on Monday met the United Nations Human Rights Committee to provide an alternative position on the human rights situation in Malawi, mainly focusing on the discrimination of sexual minorities.

During the meeting, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence pleaded with the committee to impress on the Malawi Government to provide adequate protection against minorities.

On a lobbying mission: Mtambo (L) and Trapence soon after their presentation
On a lobbying mission: Mtambo (L) and Trapence soon after their presentation

Malawi Government has a session with the committee this week to provide responses to human rights issues raised by the UN in respect to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) country report presented in April 2012.

Said Trapence: “The criminal provisions on the books are not ‘just theory’ for those in same-sex relationships, whether they self-define as lesbian, gay or bisexual. In fact, at least six men are currently in jail serving sentences of two to 13 years for consensual sex, and in May this year, two more men were arrested and charged with sodomy.”

He said Malawi has the legal and institutional infrastructure to address discrimination, but that it has not domesticated international human rights instruments into its laws.

Said Trapence: “I urge the committee to make a strong recommendation to the Malawian Government to, once and for all, treat everyone in its territory with respect and as full bearers of rights, without discrimination of any kind, including on the basis of real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo said at 50 years of independence, Malawi has made tremendous strides in the safeguarding people’s rights through establishment of human rights bodies.

Said Mtambo: “Despite the establishment of these constitutional bodies, the State still has a hand in the operations of some of these institutions. Specifically, the Director of Public Prosecution and the Anti-Corruption Bureau are always at the disposal of the ruling party to silence critical voices or settle scores with some citizens suspected to have indulged in corruption or fraud.”

He also asked the UN to press government to expeditiously prosecute those involved in the July 20 2011 killings and murder  ofRobert Chasowa and sanction those responsible according to law and provide adequate reparations to families and victims.

Coalition for the Prevention of Unsafe Abortion (Copua) national coordinator Chrispine Sibande commended government for presenting its first ICCR report although he said the report fell short of addressing the issue of unsafe abortion which was one of major health problems.

Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) chairperson Ambassador Sophie Kalinde told the committee Malawi Government should be commended for opening up the issue of same sex.

MHRC told the committee that it has never received any complaint regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and that most of the people arrested were on charges of child molestation.

On another issue, Kalinde said: “The commission noted that there is an increase in cases of gruesome murder and death in police cells, but government has not taken a keen interest to pursue these matters further like the deaths from July 20.”

Cedep and CHRR represented Communication Workers Union of Malawi, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Media Institute of Southern Africa, Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre, Paralegal Advisory Services Institute, Youth Consultative Forum, Church and Society of CCAP Nkhoma Synod.

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