Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Malawi: Another 'gay' arrest as police intensfy hunt for homosexuals

The Coat of arms of MalawiImage via Wikipedia
Source: Afrique en ligne - 16 Feb

A 60-year-old man in the Malawi commercial capital, Blantyre, has been arrested for sodomising a 23-year-old man, the latest in a growing campaign to round up homosexuals in this higly-homophobic southern African country, police have disclosed.

"Yes, we have arrested one Mr. Tony Chirwa after a complaint that he sodomised a young man," police spokesman Dave Chingwalu confirmed to PANA on Monday.

Chingwalu said Chirwa, an artisan at a weaving company in the city, has been staying alone and reportedly lured the 23-year-old man, whose identities police would not disclose, to his house.

"He asked the young man to undress and he sodomised him and the young man reported the incident to police," said Chingwalu.

A medical report, tendered before the Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrates Court, indicated that traces of semen were found on the young man.

Chingwalu disclosed that police investigations had uncovered a network of high-profile people who are involved homosexual acts.

"Some are white expatriates, some are priests, while others are university lecturers," he said.

Chingwalu, who could not disclose members of the network since - according to him - investigations are still underway, said the noose was slowly tightening on them "and we will arrest them all."

He said homosexuality was illegal in Malawi and it was the duty of the police to enforce the laws.

Chingwalu said the network of homosexuals was procuring "unnatural sex" from mainly street kids and other vulnerable Malawians who are lured with promises of money or employment as house boys.

"We know many innocent poor Malawians are being sodomised but cannot come out because these people are taking advantage of their vulnerability because of poverty," he said.

The issue of homosexuality, largely frowned upon in Malawi whose laws are against same-sex liaisons, came to the fore following the arrest over Christmas of the southern African country's first openly gay couple.

The couple, 26-year-old Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested 27 December after holding a public traditional engagement ceremony a day earler ahead of their planned wedding in the New Year.

They have since been charged with buggery or unnatural acts between males and gross indecency.

They denied the charges and were remanded in prison pending the conclusion of their case.

The courts said the couple cannot be released on bail "for their own safety".

Buggery and gross indecency attract up to 14 years inprisonment with hard labour on conviction.

Meanwhile, a junior football league club coach has started a 10-year jail term following his conviction on buggery charges by a Blantyre junior court last week.

Twenty-nine-year-old Dave Mpanda was convicted after being caught sodomising a 16-year-old boy.

The continued hunt, arrest and prosecution of homosexuals comes amid a growing local and international campaign for Malawi to "go easy" on gays and lesbians.

A 21-year-old man was sentenced to two months of community service after being caught pasting pro-gay rights posters along the streets of Blantyre, while a senior minister recently expelled a woman from her area after a court acquitted her on charges of having sex with two girls.

Police are also hunting for a group of underground gay rights activists, operating under the name Broad Coalition, who are distributing pro-gay rights leaflets.

Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Culture, whose Parliament is one such organisations that condemned Malawi's "harrasment" of gays, is currently visiting Malawi.

It is not clear if she will address the issue as she interacts with Malawian officials.
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