Saturday, May 19, 2012

History in the Making: The Nation of Malawi Goes Progressive

A funny thing happened in Malawi. And it happened more by happenstance than by any plan.

You see a woman was elected Vice President of Malawi (putting them ahead of America where only men have been VP). I am sure people figured that woman would never get beyond VP because across the world, throughout history VP is kind of a useless position. In fact on my apartment building's co-op board I SOUGHT being VP because it was the least onerous office. I wound up with treasurer! Go figure.

So Joyce Banda, a woman, was elected VP of Malawi. Then came the death of 78-year-old President Bingu wa Mutharika...and suddenly Malawi, by accident, became the second nation in Africa to have a woman lead the country...the first being Liberia, but THAT is another that can be found here:

Again let me be clear that Liberia and Malawi are ahead of America here in terms of having a woman lead their nation. We have only had men.

Today Joyce Banda, the second woman to lead an African nation, took a HUGE step and I a afraid many people missed it. The second woman to lead an African nation has just come out in support of legalizing homosexuality, something that VERY few African leaders have been willing to do. Joyce Banda deserves our support...and NEEDS our support.

Most of Africa considers homosexuality a crime. Some nations even are trying to institute the death penalty for homosexuality. In Uganda, as covered by Current TV, the push for the death penalty for homosexuality probably originated in the United States: (sorry, it starts with an ad)

But death penalty aside, there are few nations in Africa where homosexuality is legal. In Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania and several others, all homosexual acts are illegal. In some other nations like Kenya and Zimbabwe male homosexual acts are illegal but female homosexual acts are legal. Even where homosexuality is technically legal, equality is far from a reality. South Africa is about the only African nation where homosexuals are given pretty much equal rights, beating America on many levels.

Malawi is one of the nations where male homosexual acts are illegal while female homosexual acts are legal. And there is no real equality.

Today Malawi President Joyce Banda has announced that she supports legalizing homosexuality in Malawi. This is, of course, just one step forward when it comes to a barbaric policy, but for the second women leader in Africa to take this step is a HUGE deal. I actually hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia (where homosexuality remains illegal) takes notice and follows suit.

From BBC News:

President Joyce Banda has said she wants Malawi to overturn its ban on homosexual acts - the first African country to do so since 1994.

Two Malawian men were sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 after saying they were getting married...

Mrs Banda took power last month after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died of a heart attack.

She has since reversed several of his policies, including devaluing the currency, in a bid to get donor funding restored...

In her first state of the nation address to parliament, Mrs Banda said: "Some laws which were duly passed by the august house... will be repealed as a matter of urgency... these include the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts."

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in the main city, Blantyre, says the president has the support of a majority of MPs and so should be able to get parliament to overturn the law.

However, he says it will be an unpopular move with many church leaders, as well as the wider population in this conservative country...

This is a brave move by an African leader whose hold on power may be tenuous. She deserves our support.

In honor of Joyce Banda and her move to legalize LGBT people in Malawi, I have donated to the Boost Malawi Fund (UK based) and the Raising Malawi Fund (US based). I ask you to give a small amount to one or both of these funds to help support a brave woman who is standing up for the LGBT community in Africa.

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