Dr Alan Msosa – Human Rights and Sexualities in Malawi

  • Date:
  • Time: 16:00
  • Location: Baines Wing SR 1.06
  • Categories:

The Leeds University Centre for African studies is delighted that Dr Alan Msosa will join us as the first speaker in our semester 2 seminar series. Alan is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Politics’ Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre at the University of York. He is also as affiliate with the University of Bergen Centre on Law and Social Transformation where he is a member of a working group on sexual and reproductive rights lawfare. He holds a PhD in Human Rights from the University of Essex, which drew from life stories of non-conforming Malawians to investigate the challenges in the protection of human rights protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Malawi.


How might a better understanding of the local meanings of human rights and sexualities help address the challenges that Malawi are facing over meeting the obligations to guarantee human rights protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

For the past decade, Malawi has been one of Africa’s hotspot in the heated public contentions over legitimacy of human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Same-sex sexual conduct is criminalized under the Penal Code (1930) inherited from the colonial British empire, and non-heterosexual gender identities are nullified under the Marriages Divorce and Family Relations Act (2015). Paradoxically, the constitution’s bill of rights and ratified international human rights treaties obligates the country to guarantee equal and effective protection against discrimination of any kind. The sustained contentions have occurred in the courtrooms, parliament, public rallies and the streets.

It is widely believed that the questions about ‘LGBT rights’ are so contentious because Malawians find homosexuality abominable and are doubtful about the indigeneity of human rights. This is not unique to Malawi or uncommon about Africa. However, I argue that local meanings about human rights and sexuality in the Malawian context arguably distinguishes recognisable and intolerable sexuality rights. I propose an epistemological alternative for deploying claims for human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity through meanings that strike local resonance.