Presidential press secretary Brian Banda has said President Lazarus Chakwera has no clear stand on legalization of same-sex marriages and has left the issue to the country’s citizens to determine whether to legalise it or not.
Banda also told the media during the Weekly Brief at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Mondaythat the issue was same-sex marriages was an outstanding point of debate and would leave it to Malawians to decide on how the country should handle the matter.
“What we need to do is to discuss as a country on the way forward. What is it that we want? We should not leave this issue to the President alone to decide, ” said Banda as he was responding to a question from a journalist on the matter.
He said President Chakwera, an ordained pastor, was ready to listen to diverse opinions on the contentious issue from both in support or against the legalisation for the country to find a position on how to deal with it.
However, while welcoming the idea, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) National Coordinator Luke Tembo, argues that the President has to provide leadership in terms of how the issue should be handled.
A network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) in Malawi argue that the law should allow same-sex marriages, and, more generally, that marriage should be available to couples regardless of their genders.
“Put simply, equality means making the same choices available to all and thats prospering together,” said a member of the LGBT organisation in Malawi.
Eric Sambisa, founder of LGBT+ rights group the Nyasa Rainbow Alliance said they will be ready to launch an Equality Campaign for the introduction of same-sex marriage to help reduce all forms of prejudice against LGBT people.
“Same-sex marriages will show that Malawi is ready to embrace of diversity, equality, freedom, tolerance, respect, dignity and fairness,” said Sambisa.
He said the introduction of same-sex marriage will enhance the safety, self-esteem, health and wellbeing of LGBT people in Malawi.
According to a research which was conducted by the South Africa-based LGBT+ rights group The Other Foundation, nearly all Malawians think LGBT+ human rights should be protected, yet the same number could not accept a gay or lesbian family member.
Malawi criminalizes same-sex conduct, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people often face violence, threats and discrimination, according to Human Rights Watch, a global rights group.
“For example, 80% believe that homosexual sex is wrong, but one in three believe God loves people in same-sex relationships,” said Alan Msosa, lead researcher and an academic with the University of Bergen in Norway.
“When we unpacked certain words using local languages, such as using ‘justice, fairness and inclusion’ over ‘human rights,’ we found that people were more tolerant in their views,” Msosa said in quotes reported by Reuters.
Researchers surveyed 1,300 Malawians in-person, and the questions were answered anonymously and explained in local languages, he said.
Prior to this study, there was little data on the views of Malawian society and size of the LGBT+ community, said Jessie Kabwila, a former member of Malawian parliament and a human rights researcher not involved in the study.
“This study gives me hope,” she said. “This is locally conducted research by Malawians in our own languages that show that the perceptions are changing around gender and sexuality and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
The study found 87 percent supported constitutional protection of LGBT+ human rights.
But 90 percent said they could not accept a gay man or lesbian woman in their own family, and almost one in four said they might be violent toward gender non-conforming people in the future.