Malawi human rights groups: gay rights not about child abuse

Kelvin Gonani

Kelvin Gonani

The case of man attacked in Malawi allegedly for being gay has taken another disturbing turn with claims that he was actually beaten for sexually exploiting a minor.

Allegations have emerged that Kelvin Gonani, who was previously arrested on gay sex charges, had been prostituting his young nephew, who is a minor. It’s been claimed that he was assaulted by members of the gay community in Lilongwe because of his alleged abuse of the child.

Bloody pictures of the thirty-something man were posted on Facebook last week under the belief that he was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP) have now responded to the allegations.

“CHRR and CEDEP would like to emphasise that the alleged sexual abuse and exploitation of the child in Gonani’s care is an extremely serious and worrisome accusation and it is crucial that this case is thoroughly and urgently investigated by relevant authorities”, said the organisations’ directors, Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence, in a statement.

“Much as we are interested in the promotion of equal rights and social justice in Malawi, we at CHRR and CEDEP do not condone any sexual abuse of children. This is why we are calling for Mr. Gomani to be promptly investigated and, if it is established that he indeed sexually exploited the child, he must be prosecuted. Sexual abuse of children is not only illegal in this country but is also unacceptable and should not be condoned or go unpunished.”

The groups further affirmed that sexual abuse of children was unrelated to calls for LGBT equality.

“Gay rights concern consensual sex between adults. In other words, none of the people involved are below the legal age for having sex, and all of them agree to what they are doing. Forced sex (rape) and sex with children (defilement) both violate the sexual rights of the victim, whether the perpetrator is of the same or opposite sex as the victim,” they said.

The groups called on Malawians to stamp out the sexual abuse of children.

“As a people we must stop this sick behaviour in its tracks. It is completely unacceptable that innocent children should be turned into sex objects by shameless adults who cannot control their lust, which is why we call for stiffer penalties to be meted out to people who are found guilty of such acts,” said the organisations.

Gonani was one of two men who were arrested in December when police raided a private home. The alleged couple were later released with all charges dropped after the government announced that it had suspended enforcement of the country’s gay sex ban.

Last week, the High Court in Mzuzu left the status of gays and lesbians in Malawi mired in confusion after it ruled that the government could not suspend laws and “ordered the Malawi police service and the director of public prosecutions to continue arresting and prosecuting gays and lesbians who commit homosexual offences in Malawi.”

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