Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 5:32 AM
I was surprised at the number of friends and colleagues who knew nothing about Malawi until Madonna stirred international controversy by going there in 2006 to adopt the first of two Malawian babies. (She adopted the second one last year.)
But now Malawi is stirring international controversy on its own. For, according to a report in yesterday’s London Times, a Malawian court convicted a gay couple on May 18 of “unnatural acts and gross indecency.” Today the presiding judge sentenced Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, to the maximum 14 years in prison.
Clearly this is abominable. What is even more so, however, is that homosexuality is still a crime in over 80 countries, including Ghana, India, Jamaica, and the Turks and Caicos Islands (my ancestral home). And it’s punishable by death in many of them, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Afghanistan (where American soldiers are dying on a futile nation-building mission).
Of course, I fully appreciate that there are many religious fanatics even in the United States who believe that homosexuality is an abomination unto God that should be punishable by death. Indeed, it’s an indication of how retarded otherwise progressive countries are on this issue that the U.S. only decriminalized all sodomy laws a few years ago with the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003).
Frankly, given ongoing battles worldwide to ban gay marriage and the ordination of gay priests, I can’t think of a single country that has the moral authority and political influence to lead the fight against the persecution and prosecution of gay people. But hypocrisy has never inhibited rich and powerful countries from imposing their notions of morality and human rights on others.
Therefore, I wonder why they aren’t doing more to end the apartheid systems that are oppressing homosexuals in countries all over the world the way they exerted pressure (via economic and political sanctions) to end the apartheid system that was oppressing blacks in South Africa. Especially since Malawi relies on Western donors for over 40 percent of its development budget.
In the meantime, though, given that celebrities now wield as much influence in many countries as foreign heads of state, perhaps Madonna will use hers to prevail upon the Malawian government to not only pardon this couple but repeal the country’s laws against homosexuality. After all, reports are that she got this government to change its adoption laws to facilitate the adoptions mentioned above.
NOTE: The British government has a special duty to help repeal anti-gay laws in many countries around the world because many of these laws were enacted under British colonial rule.
Madonna adoption of African boy