Gender, Gays and Gain: The Sexualised Politics of Donor Aid in Malawi

Emmie Chanika, John L. Lwanda, Adamson S. Muula


Many Malawian politicians have exploited religious and cultural discourses, encouraging the discourse of the “God-fearing Malawi nation” while also acknowledging the country as a secular state. This discourse – which most recently underwent further development in the early 1980s when Christians and Muslims, funded by donor money, accelerated their evangelical drives in the context of a one-party Malawi – resonates with a patriarchal, conservative political dispensation. This paper traces the evolution of the “God-fearing nation” discourse in Malawian politics. It posits that the government used the “gay rights issue” as a strategy to disorient human rights activists and donors. Gay rights were de-linked from other civil rights, forcing a binary approach toward gay rights, which were seen by government supporters as “anti-Christian”, “anti-Malawian” concepts. The debate with donors enabled the government to claim “sovereign autonomy” and galvanise the population into an anti-aid mentality (better no aid than aid that supports homosexuality).

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