Themicroloanfoundation's Blog


The Steven and Tiwonge saga continues
June 2, 2010, 10:57 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sadly, the only news story coming out of Malawi and onto Reuters today is the story of the imprisonment of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge “Aunt Tiwo” Chimbalanga. The two were convicted of “gross indecency” , “buggery” and “unnatural acts” for holding a gay wedding ceremony in a Blantyre lodge. They were sentenced to 14 years of hard labour. Yet, after a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President Bingu wa Mutharika reversed his previously hardline anti-gay position and gave the two men a full pardon. Tiwonge, however has recently gone on the run.

Nonetheless, human rights watchers should not necessarily get giddy about the hope of reforming Malawi’s tough anti-gay laws. While the pro-government papers praised Pres. Mutharika’s decision just a few days ago, the same papers showed noticable hostility towards homosexuals just a couple of weeks prior, while the Tiwonge and Chimbalanga were undergoing trial.

Yesterday’s headline “Mutharika Hailed for Releasing Gay Couple”

May 26 “No Honeymoon in Jail”

Apr 27 “Gay couple sent to taste waters: to hell with donors

At the same time, Bingu and co. have shown no interest in decriminalising homosexuality. This is in spite of the fact that homosexuals in Malawi have the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of any group at around 25% (no one really knows since most Malawian homosexuals remain tightly closeted) and are left in a huge treatment gap.

However, the impact of Ban Ki-Moon’s visit raises eye-brows and questions. How and when should donor pressure be used? For the past twenty to thirty years, donor agencies have had no problem imposing liberalisation measures on aid-receiving countries. Malawi certainly being no exception to the rule. As we’ve said in previous posts, this has had less than laudable success in the arena of development. Human rights issues have occasionally been the subject of donor pressure., as seen recently in Rwanda. But the success of such pressure is likewise dubious.

So in a nutshell, where do you draw the line?

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