Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tricky

So the head of Dfid, Andrew Mitchell has just said that countries who receive UK aid may face "fines" if they continue to discriminate against gays. This has not gone down well in Malawi. Check out the comments below the linked-to article. Relations between the UK and Malawi have been strained for awhile now over a number of issues, in particular over the recent departure of the High Commissioner .

I'm torn on this issue. On the one hand I completely agree that gays should not be discriminated against by any government. On the other hand as a foreigner in Malawi I am very pessimistic about my chances to, or even my right to, engage with Malawians on this issue in a constructive manner. The UK's choice to single out this issue does not seem politically or culturally smart to me if their end goal is really to change the attitudes and laws of Africans and their governments. You can't "fine" a people, particularly a people with a history of colonial oppression, into adopting the values of their former oppressors.

And yet I too hold those values and so wish there were a way to engage in a constructive and respectful dialogue with Malawians about homosexuality.
There is always an unresolvable tension between a need to respect diversity and a need to protect the vulnerable.

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