This year, close to $350 million dollars of US financial aid was rescinded due to amendments in the country’s penal code criminalizing sodomy. Ultimately, Malawi acquiesced to bring its sodomy laws in line with those of the progressive West, but not without grave concerns about the new cultural imperialism on this issue.
“In as far as we cannot run away from the fact that we need their aid it is absurd for those countries to be forcing the country to embrace immoral cultures. We are a sovereign state and we deserve to be treated as such, aid or no aid”, said Dr. Hetherwick M. Ntaba, the chief political advisor to the president of Malawi.
The threat of withholding foreign aid has many implications that ultimately affect the basic human rights of Malawians such as the right to access food and water.
Last month, Germany announced it would withhold half of the $33 million in foreign aid promised to Malawi because of the criminalization of homosexuality and the restriction of press freedom. Press reports indicate that The Global Fund recently rejected Malawi's application for $560 million due to its laws regarding sodomy.
Malawi, a landlocked nation in southeast Africa, is among the world’s least developed nations. Only seven percent of Malawians have regular access to electricity, and the lack of reliable power is a critical constraint to economic growth. Because of the impoverished conditions in this nation, the need for aid money is vitally important.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Malawi “worked in close partnership to develop a Compact investment that will reform the power sector, while investing in much-needed energy infrastructure improvements. MCC’s investment is expected to generate $2.4 billion in income for more than 5 million Malawians” said a recent authority writing in an MCC brief this year.
After engaging in a high-level dialogue with the government of Malawi, the MCC decided to withhold aid due to recent penal code amendments that explicitly criminalized homosexual acts as well as concerns related to press freedoms.
“Criminally punishing lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals under laws prompted MCC to initiate the investigation required for suspension or termination of the Compact” said an MCC official in their spring brief.
Although the government of Malawi clarified and publically affirmed the constitutional protections of freedom of the press, MCC made it clear to the Government of Malawi that “laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are inconsistent with human rights obligations and MCC’s indicators.”
No international human rights treaty mentions sexual orientation or covers sexual behavior. More than 60 countries around the world have laws that penalize homosexual acts, and nearly every country has laws that criminalize various sexual behaviors, including pedophilia and incest.