Crossing the Line in Malawi

Tonight we decided to chill – candles, blankets, drinks, chips; creating the kind of accommodating and comfortable atmosphere that would allow the us to engage effectively with issues that are regarded as very personal, reflective, spiritual – a challenging process indeed.

To address issues of discrimination, especially those related to the politics of sex and sexuality, and sexual rights, we chose to cross the line, by working in the margins, and taking some significant risks. We adopted a diverse range of strategies to bring subjects which are often considered controversial and insignificant from the periphery to the centre of our discussion. LBGTI issues came into the conversation (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, intersex). The women looked disgusted, and some swore that they had never heard of such wickedness. However, one young woman shared that women had sex with each other in schools. So much so that they did not want to see boys during the holiday.

We continued to provoke this particular discussion until another participant shared that when her husband died, her grandmother advised her to get sexual pleasure from another woman. Slowly the truth emerged. The women spoke about how women pleasured each other sexually in the past and how they (some of the ‘participants’) also did it as they were growing up.

I believe that next time these kinds of discussions will be easier to initiate. It was an interesting conversation and we truly saw people crossing the line.

Part three of a four part series on JASS in Malawi. Next - The Flame that Will Build a Movement