State Backs Off

Good news – as far as it goes – for civil liberties in Malawi, as their president has (reluctantly) pardoned a same-sex couple, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, who’d been sentenced to 14 years of prison for their role in the country’s “first recorded public activity for homosexuals.”

The pressure of world opinion has obviously had its much-needed effect. But the pressure needs to be kept up until such arrests actually stop happening, rather than merely being undone after the fact.

(The Malawi president – who continued to condemn homosexuality as “evil” even as he was issuing the pardon, explained that homosexuality is “unheard of in Malawi,” and something “we Malawians just do not do” – which you’d think would obviate the need for such laws in Malawi anyway. As well as in Scotland, of course.)

Addendum: The content of the NY Times article I linked to has changed even as I was writing this post; some of the phrasing I quoted has mysteriously been removed.


10 Responses to State Backs Off

  1. Alexis May 29, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    They’re not actually a same-sex couple. The media’s reporting of their case as though they’re both male suggests to me that the Western media has just as many issues with diversity in sexuality and gender as does Malawian law.

    • Roderick May 29, 2010 at 9:43 pm #

      Thanks, I’d missed that point.

    • scineram May 30, 2010 at 8:07 am #

      If they weren’t both man this wouldn’t be a gay rights issue.

    • dennis May 30, 2010 at 11:39 am #

      I thought that sex referred to the form of one’s body, and that gender referred to the cultural constructs through which notions of sex are enacted. If my understanding is correct they would be a same sex couple but not a same gender couple.

      • Roderick May 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

        That’s right, although the distinction is controversial (in the sense that it has been taken to overstate the degree to which there is a clear “natural” or “biological” category of sex).

        But I doubt that the Malawi government cares much about these distinctions.

        — But I’m an ANTI-communist!

        — I don’t care what kind of communist you are!

        • dennis May 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

          Does the controversy hinge around there being three considerations: chromosomal sex, the form of the body, and the adornment of the body, existing along a sexual continuum?

  2. Anon73 May 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    So it’s not an issue of gay rights if one of them ‘self-identifies’ as a woman?

    • Roderick May 29, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

      Well, it’s an issue of LGBT rights in any case.

    • Alexis May 31, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

      It’s an issue of the state enforcing heteronormativity on people’s lives – which is not only a gay rights issue, but more generally an issue for anyone in Malawi who doesn’t fit heteronormative notions of gender and sexuality, such as this couple. And when the Western media – including sections of the Western lesbian and gay media – erase the existence of transgendered / intersex people by squeezing a story into simplistic dichotomous notions of gender and sexuality, they are supporting the same categorical structures as the Malawian state, and simply differing on the issue of whether people placed within one part of those structures should be persecuted.

  3. Homogenized Milk Man June 1, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    The Ugandan anti-homosexuality law was covered by Current TV this past week.

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