TWO THINGS TO KILL FOR – RELIGION AND PATRIOTISM
AND TO KILL DEBATE – ‘OUR’ CULTURE
DE-LINKING THE ‘GAY’ ISSUE
On Sunday, 3rd April, Capital Radio chose as its topic for the lunchtime debate and phone-in programme:
Same-sex marriage versus foreign aid; the attitude of the NGO’s.
They did a disservice to what should have been the main issue of contention:
Is the criminalisation of homosexual activity between consenting adults contrary to the Malawi Constitution?
By introducing the threat of suspension of foreign aid by the donors because of the Malawi Government’s poor governance record, Capital Radio provided an environment in which the Government could place emphasis on the issue of ‘gays’, patriotism and hurt national pride where they know that popular feeling is on their side rather than on the overall governance/human rights situation.
To keep people firmly on issue the alternative subject for debate could have been:
Should the donors withhold aid because of the Government’s alleged poor record on governance and human rights?
No mention of the ‘gay’ issue which is, perhaps, in the overall context, the least in importance as far as the good governance of Malawi is concerned. It is an area that has yet to be tested in the Constitutional Court.
RELIGION AND CONFLICT
"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." -
-- Steven Weinberg
-- Steven Weinberg
Those people in Afghanistan who beheaded United Nations personnel because some crackpot religionist in America burned a copy of the Quran; those Protestants who blew up a Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland because of his Catholic faith; those Sunni Muslims in Pakistan who blew up Sufi Muslims because they are ‘heretics’ – and all within the last week - were probably considered by their families and many in their communities to be ‘good people’.
Religion is divisive. It dehumanizes the ‘enemy’. The victims are seen as less than human; not the same as ‘us’. To kill is to do god’s work.
Theological religion is the source of all imaginable follies and disturbances; it is the parent of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind."
- Voltaire / 1694-1778 / Philosophical Dictionary, 1764
- Voltaire / 1694-1778 / Philosophical Dictionary, 1764
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
The Malawi Constitution is based on a universal code of human rights. The few countries that do not adhere are those theocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and other countries with repressive laws or a reputation for mistreatment of their citizens. Many political and religious leaders defend the Malawi stance by stating the number of countries that are yet to decriminalize homosexuality. If they were to list them it would be seen that they are not the countries that Malawi should be proud to be associated with!
The Constitution of Malawi is quite clear: there is freedom of religion. Religion is a personal choice. Moral codes, as interpreted by believers, vary with religion or branch of the religion and even within the branch from one individual to another. While there are accepted codes of conduct within all societies, many defined by law, there is not one moral code that can be agreed by all. Whilst democratic governments are generally appointed by majority vote that is not constitute a dictatorship of the majority. To contend that the moral code of the faith held by the majority must be applied to all is to cause disharmony and invite conflict. Arguments against the decriminalization of homosexuality based on any religious concept of morality are, therefore, not valid.
Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
We do not consider patriotism desirable if it contradicts civilized behavior.
It is indeed galling, if not demeaning, for it to be pointed out that your nation cannot go it on its own. The sentiment is that we should wean ourselves off foreign aid. When and how that could be done is another matter. It cannot be done without pain. But for the sake of national pride, the sentiment appears to be that we should tell the donors to keep their money.
But this sentiment appears to be selective and is raised only in connection with sensitive or emotive issues such as what to do about homosexuals. The same sentiments are not expressed when other issues relating to NGOs and support for governance and the rule of law are concerned. These are seen as affecting the total populace. As for the ‘gays’ – well they are a repulsive minority, morally outrageous, an abomination in our midst and they do not have a right to be as they are – or so goes the popular dialogue.
It is a pity that the donors have been a little over-enthusiastic in pushing the pro-gay agenda. I say this, not because I am not pro-gay but because the issue has merit which those of us who support the decriminalisation of homosexuality should be able to argue. When donor sentiment raises national flag-waving and talks of sovereignty it becomes counter-productive and the real arguments will not be countenanced by a hostile public.
When one looks back over human existence, however, it is very evident that all culture has developed through an initial resistance against adaptation to the reality in which man finds himself
In any culture, subculture, or family in which belief is valued above thought, and self-surrender is valued above self-expression, and conformity is valued above integrity, those who preserve their self-esteem are likely to be heroic exceptions
Culture is dynamic. To quote culture as an argument against change is to deny its very nature. There is no agreed single Malawi culture. There are many common threads. Many of these are not exclusively Malawian. The culture of Malawi changes with the generations. Foreign religions have almost completely displaced the traditional yet traces of these are still to be noted amongst adherents of the ‘new’ religions. For many, Christianity or Islam is accepted as part of their culture. In fact, it is recorded that within thirty years of the introduction of Islam amongst the Yao all knowledge of traditional religions had been lost completely. Other aspects of foreign culture have been painlessly adopted and the changes have gone unnoticed. There are moves afoot to put an end to cultural practices that would tend to spread HIV/AIDS such as kuchotsa fumbi.
Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees that everyone can follow the culture of their choice. Unfortunately, the cry of ‘culture’ is used to put an end to argument. Yet this is no reason not to enquire into the validity of an argument.
THE ‘GAY’ ISSUE
The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn't mean that God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision.
Now that we have removed religion, culture and the donors from the debate, let us look at the real issues. We must explore the facts and probabilities. But, first, let us get rid of the myths:
· Homosexuality is not a culture. Homosexuals are found in all cultures and in all race groups.
· Homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice. It is a natural state.
· Homosexuality is not the same as paedophilia.
· Homosexuals do not recruit heterosexuals.
· Homosexuality is not a western import.
· The decriminalization of homosexuality will not result in the sudden conversion of heterosexuals to homosexuality although many, now living the lie of a heterosexual lifestyle will now be more inclined to honestly display their sexual orientation.
So what are we frightened of?
It is an indisputable fact that some people are born with the body of one sex and the feelings of the opposite. We have all observed that men and women think differently, have slightly different talents or aptitudes etc. Tests have been devised to ascertain the sexual orientation. Time and again ‘gay’ people have been demonstrated to have characteristics that are the opposite of their physical sexual attributes. MRI scans of brain activity clearly show that ‘gay’ peoples’ brains react to same-sex pornographic pictures but not to opposite sex. Many gay people have been aware since childhood of their differences and many parents have noticed the differences in their children from as early as 2 years of age. Current research indicates that hormonal influences on the foetus in the womb cause such gender imbalances.
Homosexuality is not the norm. It is estimated that between 2% and 5% of the population is homosexual. That is true of all race groups and all nationalities.
What danger do homosexuals pose to our society?
With say a 2% gay population there is no danger that Malawi with one of the highest birth rates in the world – now at 6 children per woman – will run out of replacement human stock. In fact, the population is growing at more than 2% per year and the strains of overpopulation are clearly to be seen.
Homosexuals are not going to sexually assault our children – or, at least, no more so than we note among the heterosexual male population where sexual abuse of minors is becoming increasingly common!
Now – what about the sexual act between homosexuals? A homosexual is no more capable of denying his or her sexuality than is the heterosexual. To DEMAND that the heterosexual Malawian should not assuage the sexual urge would be demanding far too much. To demand the same of the homosexual is also too much to expect. For them homosexual it is natural to have pleasure with persons of the same sex. We know that the human body was not designed for such acts. We know that it will not result in children being born. But when a man and a woman engage in sexual activity they do so for their pleasure and having children is generally only an accident of the encounter. In fact, with modern contraception, the otherwise natural outcome is prevented.
Does homosexual sex harm you or society in general? I think not. Is what adults do in private any business of anyone else? The answer is NO. And it is no business of the State or the law-givers or law-keepers in a rights based dispensation.
Disgusting! Did I hear you say ‘disgusting’? Perhaps you find it so. But what do men and women get up to in the privacy of the bedroom or in the ‘Rest Houses’ that cater to the sex traveller? I am sure that many of them get up to all sorts of ‘disgusting’ things. But you do not ask your neighbours what they do for their pleasure. Just look at the condom adverts:
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Now, why would you want flavoured condoms if you wanted only regular sex? Disgusting! Maybe. But it does no-one any harm and is no-one else’s business – let alone the State’s
What are we going to do with them?
So, homosexuals are here in Malawi and they will continue to be born. They have no choice as to how they develop. They just ARE. They are our brothers and sisters, children, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbours, employers, employees, teachers, doctors, academics, priests and just plain Joes. At the moment they live in fear of discovery. They live a life of lies.
Must we continue to hunt them down and lock them up for fourteen years? It will not change their nature. It will not change their sexual desires. And it will cost the state money to keep them. There is no profit to anyone.
In other countries where the old ignorance gave way to an understanding and a change in the laws allowed homosexuals to ‘come out’ and live life honestly as they were created there has been no damage to society, no-one has been harmed. In fact, we will be denying our nation the services of useful citizens.
It has been noted that many homosexuals are exceptionally talented – perhaps more in proportion to their numbers than are found with such talent in the rest of the population. They are artists, actors, entertainers, musicians, fashion designers, beauticians, hairdressers, dancers. They have been famous politicians and gifted scientists. The world would be a poorer place had it been denied their talents.
As one observer said: