In Malawi, laws prohibiting consensual same-sex relations foster a climate of fear and fuel violence and discrimination, says Human Rights Watch.
According to a recent report, Let Posterity Judge: Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Malawi HRW said members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, physical violence and discrimination.
“The law criminalizing same-sex conduct contributes to a perception that LGBT people are fair game and can be assaulted without any consequences for the attacker,” said Wendy Isaack, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
To be a trans woman or a transgender person or to be an LGBT person in Malawi is hard.
Furthermore, the punitive legal environment combined with social stigma allows police abuse to go unchecked.
“To be a trans woman or a transgender person or to be an LGBT person in Malawi is hard. It’s hell on earth. There was a certain time where I was with my friend, some guys were shouting, “Hey! You! You are a gay person and we have to kill you.” Because in Malawi, they do not allow gay persons to live in Malawi even in our community,” saild Olivia a trans woman.
“The police arrested me for being gay. They started saying, “Why do you look like boys when you talk like girls? We know what you do. You are lesbians,” said Justice, a trans man.
Homosexuality is still criminalised under Sections 153, 156 and 137A of Malawi’s penal code. A conviction can bring a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment with hard labor in the Southern African nation.
Gift Trapence, the executive director at the Center for the Development of People says, “Our constitution is very progressive. Actually, it contradicts these sections that are in the penal code. These laws are British colonial imports. We just imported these laws.”
The report recommends that Malawi should decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct to ensure the safety and protection of all its citizens.
“Discrimination against LGBT people is rife in Malawi and is creating an atmosphere in which some of its most vulnerable citizens are afraid to seek out police assistance or potentially life-saving medical care,” said Isaack.