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Malawi’s LBGTQ+ community celebrates first Pride parade | Malawi

For a number of hours over the weekend the streets of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, had been coated in rainbows, as about 50 members of the nation’s persecuted LBGTQ+ group took half within the nation’s first Pride parade.

The dangers to those that took half are excessive. Homosexuality stays unlawful in Malawi, and those that establish as something aside from heterosexual face arrest and imprisonment.

Those on the streets of Lilongwe on Saturday, nonetheless, expressed pleasure that in a 12 months throughout which occasions had been cancelled the world over, their parade was ultimately going down throughout annual Pride month.

Andreas, 29, mentioned it was an enormous second for his group as he danced to the music and raised a placard above his head. “I feel so happy to be part of this,” he mentioned. “To be a gay in Malawi is tough and it takes a lot of guts to be open like I am. I have been through a lot, including insults and discrimination. I’m lucky that I have a loving family which accepted me the way I am.”

Marchers donned shirts with rainbow colors and emblazoned with phrases comparable to “embracing our queerness”, “pride unites world”, “love first” and “Malawi is for us too”, as they danced and chanted “Viva LGBTI!”. They marched largely alone by way of quiet streets. No crowds lined the pavements, although a number of passing vehicles sounded their horns in help.

Despite the celebration, most of these participating wore masks, not due to Covid-19 however for concern of showing their identities in a rustic the place a conviction for homosexuality can result in 14 years in jail for males and 5 for ladies.

Many of these on the march mentioned they nonetheless confronted stigma and persecution and lived their lives in a state of concern. They shared tales of being denied housing, blackmailed by police, bullied in class, rejected by their households and compelled to cover their sexuality in public.

Chrispine, 30, confronted reprisals at his college and church when his sexuality was found and was thrown out of his household dwelling at 18.

“It was hard for me because no one wanted to associate with me. I was really depressed,” he mentioned. “Even in the political space I am not represented and am not allowed to have my say. I think this is historic and the moment we have been longing for. I know in the past we would not be able to do this.”

The organisers of Malawi Pride used the parade to ship a petition addressed to the president calling on the federal government to repeal legal guidelines that criminalise same-sex unions.

“The community is here to seek dialogue with the government and address issues affecting us,” mentioned Eric Sambisa, who leads the Nyasa Rainbow Alliance. “The government says it’s implementing policies that represent people, but why should they ignore us ?”

Successive governments have pledged to reform the nation’s laws on homosexuality. President Joyce Banda promised change in 2012 and briefly suspended the sentencing of these arrested. Her successor, Peter Mutharika, mentioned he wished to place the query of legalising homosexuality to a referendum.

The present justice minister, Titus Mvalo, mentioned the legal guidelines remained in place however that the Malawi Human Rights Commission would perform a research to see whether or not change was required.

Martha Chijozi, who represented the fee on the parade, mentioned it was inside its mandate to guard the rights of everybody, together with these from sexual minorities.

She mentioned she agreed with the Nyasa Rainbow Alliance that the difficulty of sexual rights shouldn’t be the topic of a research or referendum.

“We know there are so many misconceptions about the LGBTI community. They are human beings and deserve rights like any other person. The community suffer a lot of discrimination that’s why we have a specific focus on raising awareness,” she mentioned.

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