Report shows absence of policies, education guidelines for minorities

Members of Parliament at a minority rights session

A survey conducted by the Centre for the Development of the People (CEDEP) has revealed the absence of reproductive health services and curriculum in the country’s syllabus catering for the rights of the minority groups.

Among others, the report examined polices and a guideline particularly for comprehensive sexuality education also known as Life skills which it noted is not inclusive for the groups.

The key populations include intersex, bisexuals, transgender, sex workers, gays and lesbians.

Rodney Chalera CEDEP’s senior programmes manager presented the report before Members of Parliament from the Committees of Education and HIV and AIDS in Lilongwe.

Malawi like other nations made commitments to promote inclusive and equitable education through the Constitution and the Education Act which stipulate that education should be for all without any form of discrimination or inequalities.

The study analysed all the policies which showed that most of them are silent on issues of sexual identities and orientation.

It faulted teachers who teach life skills that they don’t teach minority rights as a subject which is a gap.

Gaps were also identified in the education sector pointing to the lack of support for victims of bullying on basis of gender and social orientation in schools.

High degree of negative attitudes from society towards gays like these 

The report revealed a high degree of negative societal attitudes and treatment against the vulnerable groups.

This subjects the minority groups to homophobic rhetoric from members of the faith community and the general public who look at them as sinners.

The tendency impacts on their mental well-being which consequently leads to them suffering from mental breakdown and excess consumption of alcohol with some committing suicide.

Criminalization of same-sex relationships perpetuates stigmatization of the LGBTI population resulting in them being forced to remain invisible or underground.

Chalera challenged them as law framers and policy makers to advocate and protect rights of everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

Chalera: Optimistic for change towards minority groups

“So our expectations from them is that they are now going to have a sober mind discussing issues looking at how best they can discuss issues pertaining the sexual minority groups and make sure that they are included in most of our policy documents,” he said.

Commenting on the attitude of some members of the clergy towards marginalised groups, he indicated that even though they seem reluctant to discuss such issues, some changes have been noted.

HIV prevalence in Malawi is estimated at 1.6 percent for the general population, and 4.3 percent among men having sex with men (MSM); 60 percent of whom are in bisexual concurrence relationships.

The presentation got mixed views from the members with some seemingly accommodative and showing willingness to lobby for rights for the minority groups.

Chairperson for the Committee on HIV and AIDS Gumba Banda explained that the fight against the pandemic needs to be looked from a broader perspective if it is to succeed.

He called for more sensitisation on the matter for legislators to appreciate more on the sexual reproductive health and education rights of the key populations.

Sembereka: Every human being was created in God’s image and we need to serve humanity

Blantyre Kabula legislator Gertrude Nankhumwa minced no words saying that much as she was voted by people from all diverse backgrounds, she cannot publicly advocate for minority rights as she is a Christian and this is against her religious convictions.

CEDEP Board Vice Chair Reverend Macdonald Sembereka confessed that his activism for minority rights has earned him negative labels with some suggesting he might be one of them.

He however stated that he has no apologies to make and reminded the gathering that the greatest commandment is to love one another adding that God is too good.

Sembereka urged them to look at society’s broader prospective and challenged them as leaders not to leave anyone behind and that the rest is for God to judge.

“These are our national duties as every human being was created in God’s image and we need to serve humanity,” enthused Sembereka.