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Should the Malawi verdict be a source of African pride?

Krupa Thakrar Padhy Krupa Thakrar Padhy | 10:05 UK time, Monday, 31 May 2010

malawicouple.jpg

Update: Since the WHYS programme about this on 20th May the gay couple in Malawi who had been jailed for 14 years have been pardoned and released.
But Patricia Kaliati, Malawi's Minister of Gender and Children, said it does not mean they can continue their relationship and could be re-arrested if they do so.

The BBC's John Simpson has a new report on Uganda's plans to introduce new anti-homosexuality legislation that will introduce the death penalty for so-called 'serial offenders'. It's been among the most-shared stories all day.

Meanwhile, many of you have seen that a gay couple in Malawi have been jailed for 14 years with hard labour for gross indecency and unnatural acts.

Both stories, we know, offend some of you. But not all. We'll start the conversation with those of you in Africa who are saying you are proud of these countries refusing to bow to Western pressure on this issue. Where do you stand?

Krupa's original post:
This morning's headline on Malawi's Daily Times keeps it simple; 'Gays Guilty'.

The couple who violated Malawi's anti-gay laws by getting engaged have been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The government are pleased with the ruling, and no amount of international uproar will make it budge.

For Ethiopian writer Hama Tuma, there's a clear reason for this; homosexuality provides African leaders with an opportunity to divert public attention from Africa's real problems.

For Peter Thatchell, homophobic attitudes in Africa are a colonial imposition, that have now been claimed by African culture.

Are there double standards on the part of the West as Joop from Holland suggests on Cameroon Online? Should we leave Africa to deal with homosexuality in whatever way it feels right?

Protests against the verdict are taking place in South Africa, the only African country to have legalised homosexuality. This however didn't stop a lesbian national football player from being raped and killed in 2006.

In Uganda, the proprosed death penalty for homosexuals was thrown into question over the past few months following international pressure according to one politician.

"Homosexuality is not a top priority for the people of Uganda," Deputy Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem said. "Our priority is to make sure there is food on the table of our people - that we deal with the issue of disease."

Gay Ugandan is still waiting for that change. This article suggests that he might be waiting a long time.

And last month in Senegal, the corpse of a dead gay man was dug out, spat on and dumped outside the home of his elderly grandparents.

Mia Kirshner can no longer stay quite about gay rights in Africa. She runs a charity project in Malawi but refrained from speaking out in fear of sacrificing her work.

'I am angry. I am angry because the right to marry is the choice of an individual rather than a state...I am angry that so many are forced into the closets, furthering shame and stigma....These two men did something brave. They spoke up and they spoke out. No one in Malawi has done this publicly before.'

Maybe not in Malawi, but there are signs in that some African countries are making efforts to support 'sexual minorities'.

Nairobi for example, marked International Day Against Homophobia with a dinner and dance in front of the media.

Should we leave Africa to handle homosexuality at its own pace and however it wants?

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