Many Malawians believe homosexuality does not exist in Malawi. It is not Malawian. It is condemned as sinful and often seen as a Western “concept” rather than an inherent identity. Within this environment, people who identify as LGBTI or their allies face discrimination and violence.
With your help, Art and Global Health Center Africa (AGHCA) is creating a safe platform to discuss LGBTI issues in Malawi. We apply the Bantu philosophy of Umunthu, which celebrates the interconnectedness of humanity and is often defined in the phrase, “I am because we are,” to LGBTI rights in Malawi. This concept is explored in Umunthu: An African Response to Homosexuality, a documentary by a young Malawian filmmaker that unpacks the controversy surrounding homosexuality in Malawi and investigates the interplay of politics and culture in a local context.
In the past three months, AGHCA has hosted six screenings and discussions of the film, including at the 2015 International Short Film Festival in Malawi, where the Umunthu film won the audience award. Attendees of these six screenings and discussions included students, government officials, UN Mission members, media, and the Malawian LGBTI community. The discussions with the audience members after the film are open spaces that allow a genuinely African response to the topic of homosexuality in Malawi.
Some discussion comments reflected the hostile environment towards LGBTI persons in Malawi. These homophobic and discriminatory attitudes were challenged in every discussion by outspoken and brave individuals advocating for tolerance and co-existence. One anonymous attendee at a university screening argued that people’s sexuality “is a private matter between individuals,” a sentiment which was repeated in multiple discussions. As one film attendee expressed during a discussion attended by religious leaders, human rights activists, and Malawian parliament delegates, “No matter how different [homosexuality] may be from my views, I’m trying to practice Umunthu.”
In a country where LGBTI people are denied their existence, much less their right to love whom they choose, AGHA has encouraged discussion and reflection around the issue and enabled people to speak up for LGBTI rights. We are proud of our progress and grateful to you, our invaluable supporters, for making our work on this critical issue possible. Thank you for your ongoing support!