Although there have been calls to promote LGBTI rights in Malawi by human rights organizations and activists, people who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender say they continue to face persecution, violence and discrimination in society.
Ironically, the Human Rights Watch in its 2018 report, “Let Posterity Judge”: Violence and Discrimination against LGBTI people in Malawi made recommendations aimed at promoting their rights and dignity.
The report recommended that the Human Rights Commission ensure that Malawi provides information on rights abuse of LGBTI people and make concrete recommendations to improve their situation.
In the report, Human Rights Watch called on the government of Malawi to abide by its commitment to protect of human rights and decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct and on Parliament to repeal all anti-homosexual provisions in the Penal Code.
In Malawi, according to human rights reports laws that prohibit consensual same-sex relations foster a climate of fear and fuel violence and discrimination.
Minority rights groups that promote the rights of the LGBTI community in Malawi state that although both local and international human rights organizations are documenting the challenges being faced by gays, lesbians and transgender people and making recommendations, it is too soon to measures impact or change towards the improvement of critical problems suffered by LGBTI community in the country.
Centre for Development for People advocacy manager, Rodney Chalela, said it is difficult to measure change within a short period of time as it depends on how much advocacy work has been done when using reports.
“Just like any other report, both in country and international the change towards improvement is gradual. I may not say that there is an improvement or not because I am not sure whether civil society organizations have used the report to advocate for change towards LGBTI rights and if they have used it to what extent, ” Chalela said.
Transgender people say they face a lot of stigma and discrimination associated with identifying as LGBTI, and there is need for civic education and awareness on their rights so that they are able to address the key challenges they face.
Beauty Mapalala (name changed), a transgender woman in Blantyre, Malawi says people like her face numerous challenges that include being stigmatized and denied health care services at local health institutions, while others are bullied by students and lecturers at tertiary institutions.
“Trans people face a lot of stigma and discrimination in this country. As a result of our sexual orientation, we are we are denied health care service provision at hospitals.”
“There is need for massive civic education so that people know that LGBTI people are also human beings who deserve to enjoy basic human rights enjoyed by everyone in society,” Mapalala said.
~ This story was produced as part of an intervention by an organization called Iranti to raise awareness on LGBT issues in Southern Africa.