Magazine article New African
Malawians Reject Gay Marriages: Recent Resentment towards Gays Who Dared to Wed in Public Has Clearly Shown That Malawians Are Not Ready to Accept Same-Sex Marriages despite Their Existence Elsewhere in Southern Africa, Reports Lameck Masina
ON 28 December 2009, THE Malawian daily, The Nation, carried a lead story about the first gay couple in Malawi that wanted to publicly tie the knot in a symbolic traditional engagement ceremony. The picture that accompanied the story showed Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, the bride, and Steve Monjeza, 26, in Malawian traditional dress at an engagement ceremony held on 26 December in Chileka, north of the commercial capital Blantyre.
However their love affair, which Chimbalanga said had started last August, landed them in a court of law for contravening Sections 153 and 156 of the penal code, which outlaws any acts of homosexuality. They were charged with three counts of buggery, aiding buggery and indecent practices to which they pleaded not guilty. In the serious debate that ensued nationwide, there was outright public condemnation of the two men and those who are similarly inclined.
This has shown that Malawi is not South Africa, Scandinavia, America or any other country where gay marriages are legally accepted. People's reactions show that Malawi is like most African countries where same-sex marriages are not only a crime but also a taboo; and gay marriages are not to be blessed any time soon.
"I think the law on homosexuality is proper because culturally, in Malawi, marriage is between a man and a woman and we have not yet accepted the idea of two men having sex or getting married," says Chifundo Ngwira, a trader in Blantyre. "Even in Europe where homosexuality is legal, it is still not fully accepted in the mainstream society," he added.
Malawi is inhospitable to gays such that until the Chimbalanga and Monjeza incident, it was impossible to find anyone who would publicly admit to being a homosexual. Presumably, their fear is that admitting to being gay would lead to being stigmatised and ostracised at work, in the family and among friends. They would rather have people assume without certainty that they are gay than confirm it themselves.
Everyone in Malawi believes that gays exist although it is not statistically established. In 2009, an online newspaper, Nyasatimes, reported the formation of a gay association called the Malawi Gay Rights Movement whose objective was mainly to confirm the existence of gays in Malawi. "It is happening," says Dietrich Fredric, a Malawian TV presenter in Blantyre. …