The church willfully operates under colonial rule with its ecclesiastical edicts toward its LGBTQ brethren.I’d like to
believe that Malawi’s
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) citizens and tourists had
a few days to breathe easier. On November 5, the government issued a moratorium,
suspending all laws criminalizing homosexuality. Three days later, on November
8, homosexuality was illegal again.
moratorium held, Malawi’s
LGBTQ citizens, who constantly walk in fear and have increasingly been singled
out, could not be arrested by police or be reported for engaging in same-gender
consensual activity. Tourists would also be protected from arrest – usually, those
accused of homosexual activity are expelled as “undesirable aliens.”
opposition to the government’s
moratorium contest it was not driven by a change in heart toward its LGBTQ
citizens, but rather the change was solely motivated to appease the country’s
Western donor nations, which to them is a present-day example of former colonialists interference, influence and dictate on African
Malawi’s Justice Minister, Ralph Kasambara, publicly refuted his opponents’ cynicism
concerning the motive behind the moratorium by stating to the Associated Press, “if we continue
arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are
found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government.”
A few days
later, Kasambara flip-flopped, stating to the Daily Times,”There was no such announcement
and there was no discussion on same-sex marriage.” Kasambara’s
reversal is a direct result of the Malawi Council of Churches cadre comprised
of 24 homophobic churches that associate homosexuality with Satanism.
They contend that homosexuality is an anathema to an African identity, cultural and family values.
country’s traditionalists and religious conservatives did not like the world’s
interference in their business. They contend that homosexuality is an anathema
to an African identity, cultural and family values; and it’s one of the many
ills white Europeans brought to the Motherland (a similar homophobic polemic
still argued among religiously conservative African Americans). But if truth be
told, criminalizing homosexuality in Malawi is a by-product of British
colonialism. Nonetheless, the debate between “authentically African” and
Western colonial remnants always finds some way to dispute the reality of black
LGBTQ existence. Malawi
is not alone - thirty-eight of fifty-four countries in the African continent
criminalize same-gender consensual activity.
Malawi’s anti-gay laws are some of the
world’s toughest edicts criminalizing homosexuality so, understandably, the
moratorium sent shock waves throughout the country and around the world.
point, the infamous Malawi
couple Steven Monjeza, a gay man, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, a transwoman, who were sentenced to 14 years hard labor on
charges of homosexuality in 2010. An international outcry and presidential
pardon by Bingu wa Mutharika brought about their release.
Malawi got it’s independence from the British
Commonwealth in 1964, but it hasn’t from the church. The church
willfully operates under colonial rule with its ecclesiastical edicts toward
its LGBTQ brethren. The country’s justice minister should not have, too.
Board member and Columnist, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist,
theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the
African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian
and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of
Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia
University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently
named to MSNBC’s list of 10
Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let
Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an
African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that
is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here to contact the Rev.