BLANTYRE (Malawi), Dec 6 — Thousands of mainly Christian protesters marched through two cities in Malawi today to demonstrate against proposals to legalise abortion and homosexuality, in the first event of its kind.
The peaceful marches were organised by Catholic and evangelical churches in Malawi, where sex and homosexuality are largely taboo subjects.
About 2,000 people marched in Blantyre, the commercial centre, and 1,000 in Lilongwe, the administrative capital, AFP reporters witnessed.
Organisers presented petitions to government officials denouncing abortion and homosexuality.
A draft parliamentary bill could legalise abortion, which is currently outlawed, in some cases of rape, incest and if the life of the mother is endangered.
Malawi is also set to hold public consultations on whether to reform laws that ban homosexuality.
Colonial-era legislation outlawing sodomy was suspended two years ago to await a government review.
“Abortion and homosexuality are gravely evil and sinful. We want to stand up to the culture of death and a threat to human life,” Catholic cleric Francis Tambala told marchers in Blantyre.
“We say no to gay and lesbian unions. (Lawmakers) must vote no to homosexuality as history will judge us harshly if we don’t stand against abortion and same-sex marriages.”
“Sex and marriage is between a man and a woman. If gays marry each other, who is going to procreate life?”
Marchers held placards reading “Abortion is a crime” and “Homosexuality is abomination”.
Linda Sokoyo, mother of one child, told AFP: “I am happy we have made history today to march against abortion and homosexuality.
“I am looking for a man to marry. If we allow men to marry each other, who will marry me?”
In Lilongwe, the marchers’ petition was presented to Juliana Lunguzi, who heads a parliamentary committee on health.
Leading gay activist Gift Trapence told AFP that the protests diverted the attention of “suffering Malawians away from real issues of power blackouts, crumbled economy and corruption.”
“The churches cannot impose their beliefs on the entire society,” said Trapence, who leads the Centre for Development of People (CEDEP).
Malawi relies on international aid money, and its anti-gay laws have strained ties with donors.
Pro-choice campaigners in Malawi say that about 100,000 women have illegal, often dangerous abortions each year. — AFP