Questionable Motives

May 21, 2010

What does fear of gays look like in action?

From the CBC:

A judge in Malawi has found a gay couple guilty of unnatural acts and gross indecency after a trial that drew worldwide condemnation of that country’s laws on homosexuality.

Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa issued the ruling Tuesday. The couple could be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, had been jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, when they celebrated their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious and jeering onlookers.

Their hearings also drew ridicule, an indication of views on homosexuality in this traditional society — and elsewhere in Africa.

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 37 countries on the continent. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for “repeat offenders.” Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.

What can I say? I was offended, so I wrote to the Malawi high commissioner:

The sentencing by this Malawi ‘court’ of Steven and Tiwonge is a mark of bigotry and shame that contravenes section 20 of your country’s constitution. And your government seems to be in full agreement with this ruling. When court rulings support populism, but break the spirit of guaranteed constitutional rights and freedoms for all, then all citizens lose. The fact that your government is satisfied with this ruling makes a mockery that human rights are respected and are of any legal value whatsoever in Malawi. On the world stage, your country has taken a giant step backwards into an age of superstition and fear about a victimless activity between consenting adults some in your country find offensive.

So what?

Unless and until the government of Malawi and its agents in positions of authority have the moral courage and political fortitude to step forward and accept that rights and freedoms for all outweigh popular superstition and bigotry against some, your country’s voice will be one of regressive and brutal bigotry codified and enforced by a bullying and ethically corrupt government that deserves nothing but condemnation and marginilization for it lack of intestinal fortitude. If your government can so easily discriminate against these two men because you find their behaviour offensive, then I see no reason why your country should not wholeheartedly agree to have its membership at the United Nations revoked and sentenced to 14 years of hard labour for offending the many people other governments represent who find your ruling so offensive. Simply put, your country does not belong at the same discussion table as civilized nations because your failure to act in this matter of Steven and Tiwonge is uncivilized and deeply offensive. Your government’s failure to intercede and insist that your courts enforce the law equally on behalf of these two men is at the very least a disgrace, an abdication of your government’s responsibility to all the people it represents like Stephen and Tiwonge, and I consider criminally negligent.

If nothing else, overturning the court’s decision on constitutional grounds would show the world that your government at least has the merit, unlike 37 other timid and scared African countries, of having grown a pair.

There. That feels better.

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