Cable que muestra el apoyo de la opinión pública hacia el encarcelamiento de un pareja homosexual en Malawi

En la nota, el ministro de Justicia malauí aseguraba a la embajada de EE UU que tanto los mayoritarios cristianos como los musulmanes apoyaban el encarcelamiento.

ID:242875
Date:2010-01-08 10:38:00
Origin:10LILONGWE20
Source:Embassy Lilongwe
Classification:CONFIDENTIAL
Dunno:09LILONGWE723
Destination:VZCZCXRO3313
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHLG #0020/01 0081038
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081038Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0220
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LILONGWE 000020

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/09/2020
TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, MI
SUBJECT: MALAWI: SAME-SEX COUPLE ARREST UPDATE

REF: 09 LILONGWE 723

Classified By: Ambassador Peter W. Bodde, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) The trial of a Malawian same-sex couple charged with
gross indecency is scheduled to start January 11.
International interest in the story is growing. Malawian
public reaction to news of the arrest has been extensive and
generally supportive of the criminalization of homosexuality,
reflecting the conservative nature of Malawi society. The
Justice Minister told the Ambassador the GOM may be open to
revising the law that makes homosexuality a crime, but public
sentiment may discourage GOM initiative on this issue. U.S.
engagement with the GOM will be most effective if it is part
of a broad, continent-wide effort to encourage countries to
de-criminalize homosexuality and prevent discrimination. End
Summary.


TRIAL BEGINS JAN. 11
--------------------

2. (U) The trial of the same sex couple Tiwonge Chimbalanga
(AKA Stoneck Kachera) and Steven Monjeza (aka Steven Soko)
(reftel) is scheduled to start January 11. The couple was
denied bail by the Blantyre Magistrate Court on January 4,
and they remain in police custody. While there has been no
threat of violence, the Magistrate cited the need to hold the
two "for their own safety." The Malawi press reported that
the couple underwent a a psychiatric exam to determine their
competency and a physical exam to determine if the two have
engaged in sexual activity. Malawi Police Service public
relations officer Beatrice Mwachande said the results of the
tests would be offered as evidence in the trial. The judge
indicated that he will address the bail request again on
January 11.

3. (U) International interest in the trial has grown.
Amnesty International issued a call for the release of the
accused couple. Post has heard that major U.S. and other
international news organizations will send correspondents to
cover the story.

CRIMINALIZATION UNCONSTITUTIONAL?
---------------------------------

4. (C) The two defendants were charged with violating Malawi
Penal Code Chapter 15 - Offences Against Morality, Sections
153 and 156. Section 153 refers to "carnal knowledge against
the order of nature," violation of which is a felony
punishable by up to 15 years. Section 156 refers to "any act
of gross indecency" committed by any male with another male,
violation of which is a felony punishable by up to five
years. These laws date from the early 1900's during Malawi's
colonial period. At independence in 1963, Malawi adopted
almost the entire penal code in effect at the time. It has
been amended only rarely in the intervening 46 years.
University of Malawi Dean of Law Dr. Edge Kanyongolo
(protect) told us that from a purely legal perspective,
"carnal knowledge" would be difficult to prove. However,
Kanyongolo suggested it is likely that the two will not be
granted bail, and that they will be convicted. He also noted
that, in his opinion, Sections 153 and 156 are in direct
conflict with the human rights and broad freedoms enshrined
in Chapter 4 of Malawi's constitution. Kanyongolo believed a
guilty verdict would likely be appealed on constitutional
grounds. A ruling from Malawi's Constitutional Court could
take a year or more. In the meantime, the defendants would
likely request bail pending the outcome of such an appeal.

CHURCHES, PUBLIC OPPOSE GAY RIGHTS
----------------------------------

5. (SBU) In the wake of Chimbalanga and Monjeza's wedding
ceremony and subsequent arrest, public reaction in the press
has been extensive and largely supportive of criminalization
of homosexual acts. Malawi religious leaders have weighed in
strongly against the couple, calling for their conviction.
President of the Seventh Day Adventist Church Pastor Sausten
Mfune cautioned the country's leadership "not to buy
arguments of those supporting homosexuality on the premise of
respecting people's rights." Public support for Chimbalanga
and Monjeza has been sparse in comparison.

CONFLICTING SIGNALS FROM THE GOM
--------------------------------

6. (C) Justice Minister Peter Mutharika (who is also the
brother of President Mutharika and a respected constitutional

LILONGWE 00000020 002 OF 002


law professor at a U.S. university) told the Ambassador
privately that senior GOM officials did not order the arrest
of the two defendants. He added that the Government may be
prepared to revise the law, saying "it seems that is the way
the world is headed." He did not suggest that any change
would come in time to affect the trial of Chimbalanga and
Monjeza. Post also learned that the British High
Commissioner to Malawi had also conveyed his country's
concern about the case to the Justice Minister.

7. (SBU) In contrast to the Justice Minister's private
remarks, Principal Secretary for HIV/AIDS in the Office of
the President and Cabinet, Dr. Mary Shawa, stated publicly
that "homosexuality is alien to Malawi, and illegal under the
laws of the country."

COMMENT: NEXT STEPS / USG ENGAGEMENT
------------------------------------

8. (C) Malawian society remains deeply conservative, at least
on the surface. Organized religion remains the most
important moral and social influence for most Malawians, and
the fact that most Christian and Muslim denominations in
Malawi condemn homosexuality is a key factor on this issue.
In this sense, Malawian attitudes resemble those prevalent in
much of the developed world several decades ago. The Justice
Minister's apparent willingness to consider changing the law
is encouraging, but the Mutharika administration will see
little political upside to embracing what even many educated
Malawians perceive as a "foreign" cause. Post will continue
advocating greater respect for same-sex rights using broader
human rights commitments as a basis, but even a concerted
international push may not ultimately be enough to alter the
direction of the Malawian justice system in the current case,
or swiftly change Malawi's laws in this area.

9. (C) Malawi is not unique in Africa in its criminalization
of homosexuality. A USG initiative to encourage revision of
relevant Malawian law would be most effective if part of a
broad effort that addresses the issue across the region. We
are more likely to achieve progress if Malawi is not singled
out just because of this particular test case. The African
Union might provide a useful forum for discussion of human
rights and non-discrimination based on sexual preferences,
particularly given that President Mutharika appears likely to
assume the AU Presidency.
BODDE
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