Gay rights in Malawi

The Guardian’s coverage of the trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga is a good example of how a ‘negative’ story is both essential and in some senses ‘positive’.

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have told gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell…of their defiance. Photo: Claire Ngozo/IPS, published in The Guardian, 15 May 2010, p. 35.

As named individuals defiant in both attitude and pose, we see a struggle for human rights in a country policing laws with colonial origins. The denial of gay rights in 37 Africa countries can only be a negative, but reporting it in terms of the political struggle for rights is to approach it in the same way similar stories from Europe or the US would be covered, and that can be considered a positive step. Moreover, the coincidence of the Malawian story with the controversy in the US surrounding the sexuality of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan demonstrates how retrograde views on sexuality are common.

UPDATE 30 MAY 2010:

After international pressure, the Malawian President pardoned Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who had been sentenced to 14 years in separate prisons. Whether this pardon provides them with real freedom is questioned by this blog.


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