This is the clear message from activists lobbying for the rights of minority groups ahead of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) on 17 May.
In Malawi homosexuality is illegal and the offence attracts up to ten years in jail for men and up to five for women. In 2010, the country saw the arrest of the first gay couple who were given a 14-year prison term, the maximum for the offence. They were later released after the sudden visit by the United Nation’s Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. The current government has since put a moratorium on the law, suspending any further arrests.Daliso*, 25, from Blantyre says: “I started having feelings for boys when I was 13 years. I now have a boyfriend who lives here in the city and we have been in relationship for something like a year.” Then he added quickly: “I also have a girlfriend to wave off suspicion from friends and relatives.”Daliso is scared to tell his relatives about his sexuality. “I tried to tell some close friends but most of them have since been shunning me. Of course I don’t trust even medical personnel, so I can’t access reproductive health services.”His fears are well grounded. Malawians who publicly reveal they are gay meet arrest at worst and fierce discrimination at best. When 26-year-old gay man Eric Samisa appeared on the local television with his bold ‘legalise or kill us’ speech, the police moved in quickly detaining both him and the reporter. He reportedly received death threats and has since gone into hiding. Efforts to locate and talk to him for this article proved futile.