International pressure and actually talking about homophobia works!
The gay couple jailed in Malawi after getting engaged have been pardoned by President Bingu wa Mutharika. It happened as UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited, just after Africa superpower South Africa condemned them, and piles of pressure from leading tolerant demoncracies, serial adoptee Madonna and Elton John in a great letter here.
We are probably decades from marriage equality in most of Africa and the culture of hate in Malawi that produced this arrest and sentence is ever present. But this is still a good day. The debate has moved forward.
Getting to leaders to speak out loud about gay issues – especially marriage is half the battle. Once they realise the sky does not collapse they get more confidence to stand up for fairness.
It’s especially remarkable that South African President Jacob Zuma has – in Parliament – condemned Malawi for its imprisonment of the gay couple who got engaged recently. African leaders almost never condemn each other: just witness their usual silence around the awful Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. And South Africa is the continent’s superpower. This might not overturn the whole sentence, but it’s a big development.
And the last thing: when leaders do speak out, you have to thank them and encourage them so that they are not scared back into silence next time there’s a problem. Three cheers for Jacob Zuma.
We’ve all heard about the African gay couple jailed for 14 years for their engagement ceremony. It’s an awful situation – but beyond the tragic personal consequences for this couple, what else does it tell us about our condition, and about the need for marriage equality? Will gay marriage ever spread beyond South Africa?
1. We must fight for the right to be who we are publicly. That is why it is so important to fight the Malawi verdict and attacks on gay pride marches. Making people accept us publicly is so much harder and so much more valuable that asking to be allowed to live our lives in secret or behind closed doors