BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) - Police in Malawi say they have arrested a man in what they describe as a sweep against homosexuals.
There is a debate over gay rights in this conservative southern
African country, sparked by the trial of a gay couple charged with
unnatural acts and gross indecency, felonies for which they could
be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
Police spokesman Dave Chingwalu said the 60-year-old man
arrested Monday has been charged with sodomy. Chingwalu said he
received a complaint from a young man that he had been asked to
undress by the 60-year-old, and was then sodomized.
Chingwalu said police investigations have uncovered a network of
high-profile people who are involved homosexual acts. He said
investigations are under way "and we will arrest them all."
The hunt, arrests and prosecution of homosexuals comes amid a
growing local and international campaign for Malawi to "go easy"
on gays and lesbians.
A 21-year-old man was recently sentenced to two months of
community service after being caught pasting pro-gay rights
posters, and a senior minister expelled a woman from her town even
after a court acquitted her on charges of having sex with two
Malawi's government has been criticized by international groups
for the prosecution of Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga,
20, jailed since their arrest Dec. 27, the day they celebrated
their engagement with a party that drew crowds of curious
A group of Malawian human rights activists recently formed the
Center for the Development of People to fight for the rights of
homosexuals and other minorities. The group says studies show that
because of homophobic legislation, gays and lesbians are driven
underground making them hard to reach with information that could
protect them from AIDS.
Another group, Broad Coalition, has distributed leaflets,
posters and pictures promoting gay rights - but keeps the names of
its members secret.
Mauya Msuku, the couple's lawyer, said the laws under which
Monjeza and Chimbalanga were charged were archaic and
Msuku has asked the country's chief justice for a constitutional
review. Malawi's government has been unapologetic.
Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Minister of Foreign Affairs and
Culture whose Parliament has condemned Malawi's "harassment" of
gays, is now visiting Malawi. It is not clear if she will address
the issue as she interacts with Malawian officials.
In Africa, only South Africa has legalized same-sex marriage,
and in South Africa the gap between the liberal constitution and
societal attitudes can be wide. Uganda will soon debate a proposed
law that would impose the death penalty on some gays, though
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has told colleagues he believes
the bill is too harsh and a Cabinet minister has called - so far
unsuccessfully - for the bill to be scrapped.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)