Posts Tagged ‘Malawi’

Asylum for Malawi Couple in the U.S.?

June 2nd, 2010 No comments

Considering the dismal future and potential asylum request of the recently pardoned Malawi couple, Andrew Sullivan says:

“Come to America.”

Is he serious? Is this really the best place for them to seek asylum? Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as a trans-woman. They won’t be able to marry here, either. In many places, neither of them will have protection if fired from their jobs; Chimbalanga wouldn’t have anti-discrimination protection in most places. And I haven’t even gotten to the horrible violence that the most vulnerable among us — the trans-community — routinely suffer.

Despite his trenchant criticisms of the legal treatment of the LGBT community, Sullivan retains an immigrant’s zeal for his adopted nation (in this regard, it’s telling that he uses the patriotic “America” rather than “U.S.”). But surely a moment’s sober reflection would have told him that there are several obviously better choices for them in Europe. I know, I know — they have their own nativist movements, and violence against “outsiders” isn’t exactly unknown there. But at least they’d be assured that the law would treat them as full and equal citizens.

The Hunt-A-Homo Chain

May 25th, 2010 2 comments


Just when you thought the hammer couldn’t hit the Anti-Homo scale any harder, this one rings the bell. Really, check out this video. It’s only fifty seconds long and will astonish you — maybe. (I can’t embed it, or I would.) Listen as Baptist pastor Owens (no first name given, oddly!) calls for us to be shot with a “scatter shot gun.” That, he confidently predicts, will send us scurrying back to the closet. Oh, he’s sorry for having said it. He was young, after all. Listen to his “flock” scream their assent.

In a possibly unrelated story, Owens’ son pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of two under-age girls, one of whom he met at…church.


Mike Huckabee had this to say a few weeks ago: Gay marriages shouldn’t be accommodated any more than incest, drug abuse, and polygamy should be. The affable but dangerous Huckabee added that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because “children aren’t puppies.”

I can see why Huckabee might have wanted gays to adopt puppies, though. Here‘s a story that you might have missed:

Two boy scout counselors, 17 year old Clayton Frady and 18 year old David litickabee [sic], the son of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, have admitted to catching a stray dog during their summer session at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, AR, and hanging the dog by his neck, slitting his throat and stoning him to death.

Camp officials, who did not report the crime to law enforcement officials, have admitted that the act did occur and have fired the boys from their positions. However, no charges have been filed against the young men.


The two men convicted in Malawi of gross indecency and sentenced to fourteen years at hard labor will appeal their conviction.

Pawlenty and Malawi

May 20th, 2010 No comments

Malawi x290 (Reuters) I

Over at, you can find my just-published column tearing into Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty for vetoing a bill that would simply have recognized the humanity of the LGBT citizens of his state, by allowing aggrieved partners to decide what’s to be done with their deceased spouses’ remains, and to have same basic right to call the defendant who caused the death to account (through a wrongful death suit, allowed to legally married, opposite-sex couples).

Then, this morning I read about the sentencing of the gay Malawi couple who had engaged in a formal commitment ceremony to fourteen years of hard labor. Here’s what a Presidential spokeswoman had to say:

Betsy Chirambo, an adviser to President Bingu wa Mutharika, expressed concern over calls by some activists for the West to withdraw aid to Malawi because of the case. Up to 40 percent of Malawi’s development budget comes from foreign donors.

“It is not our culture for a man to marry a man,” Chirambo said this week. “That is not even in our constitution. Some of these rights are not good for our culture.”

The men engaged in a commitment ceremony — they didn’t “marry,” because legally, they can’t.

I’d start by threatening to cut aid in half, immediately, unless the men are released. That would get their attention.

That’s not going to happen, though. Instead, the State Department issued this toothless condemnation:

The United States is deeply disappointed in [the] conviction of same-sex couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza in Malawi. We view the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as a step backward in the protection of human rights in Malawi. The government of Malawi must respect the human rights of all of its citizens. The United States views the decriminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity as integral to the protection of human rights in Malawi and elsewhere in the world. (emphasis added)

“The government of Malawi must respect the human rights of all of its citizens.” That statement sounds a bit hollow coming from a government that still hasn’t managed to protect its LGBT citizens from workplace discrimination. And it brought to mind Pawlenty’s unsaying of gay relationships — even in death, your relationship means nothing and won’t be recognized in any way.

I’m not equating fourteen years of hard labor to what the LGBT community experiences in the U.S., although being fired from one’s job just for being, say, a lesbian, is devastating enough. I am saying that our actions and our high-minded rhetoric are often, and sadly, at odds.

Equality and Backlash in Malawi and Uganda

May 18th, 2010 3 comments

Consider this quote from a gay rights activist:

“Long before we built a movement…, no one bothered about us. We got away with so many things. When we decided to come out and claim our space, society came harshly against us.

“This implies that we are stepping on people’s toes. People hate to see us free and that’s why oppression of LGBT people is on the rise. One of the indicators of a progressive social movement is when its enemies start organising against it.”

While this might be a statement from, say, an advocate for the repeal of DADT or for marriage equality, in fact it’s from a spokesperson for a group in Uganda. This article from the Guardian discusses recent developments in several African countries, focusing on the backlash against the brave men and women who have begun to come out. Perhaps none is braver than Tiwonge Chimbalanga, one half of the Malawi couple about to be sentenced — for up to fourteen years —  for the “crime” of publicly declaring their marital commitment to each other. Said Chimbalanga:

“I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.”

This story (and others involving both governmental and citizen actions against their LGBT communities) would be bad enough, but then there’s this:

“This assertiveness is apparently being met by a ferocious backlash from religious fundamentalists and politicians determined to preserve the status quo. It has been described as a proxy war between US liberals and Christian evangelicals, both of which pour in funding and support to further their cause.”

If this indeed a proxy war, there’s only one side to be on: the one that supports people in their efforts to live authentic and fearless lives. Yes, it’s probably true that some well-meaning assistance has blundered in without sufficient awareness of local cultural and religious norms and mores, but their central argument can’t be countered. And consider the other side’s willingness to simply lie in order to rile people up about the evils of homosexuality. Here’s a comment about evangelical Scott Lively, who visited Uganda last year shortly before the introduction of the “gays must die” bill that has become an international lightning rod:

Gay activists have placed on the web a video of Lively telling a Ugandan audience that he “knows more than almost anyone else in the world” about homosexuality. He says that the genocide in Rwanda was carried out by gays, that AIDS is a just punishment for homosexuality and that foreigners are trying to promote homosexuality in Uganda.

It’s all true. Box Turtle Bulletin has posted three videos from Lively here.

Watch this one for the comments summarized above, and so much more.

Lively tells you that he “enjoys gender normalcy.” (Lucky guy.) He also expresses dismay that the Southern Policy Law Center considers him and his message to be “hate.” Oh, and gays were the spark for Nazism. One correction to the story quoted above: He says only that the “Rwandan stuff probably involved these guys.”

The “Rwandan stuff” was something called “genocide.” And where’s his evidence about the “probable” involvement of gays? He doesn’t have it, but this is about scape-goating and incitement based on pseudo-science (to dignify it). And he ends it with the AIDS comment, which is particularly stupid in a country where most of the infections occur from heterosexual sex.

Lively and his fellows have spilled the blood of gay men, lesbians, and transgendered people — ostensibly in the name of religion. But their lies can’t stand against the simple truth of men like Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

Judicial Difficulty with Gender

March 26th, 2010 No comments

A day late (not my fault! really!), here is my column over at Toggle on over and give it a look. The post examines a few cases in which courts were called upon to decide whether to give legal recognition to someone’s sexual reassignment surgery. In service of a larger point about the difficulties that the law has with gender non-conformists, I also discuss the recent goings-on in Malawi, where a gay couple is in a maximum security prison for conducing a formal engagement ceremony.

Most of the results show that courts need a great deal of education on these issues.