Malawi Suspends Enforcement Of Anti-Gay Laws

Written by scott on July 15th, 2014

In response to a formal inquiry from the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Malawian Justice Minister Janet Chikaya-Banda has announced that the government of Malawi will cease enforcement of the nation’s laws against same-sex sexual relations while a court-ordered review of the country’s existing anti-gay laws is completed.

Pink News reports:

[Chikaya-Banda] said the review had stalled due to financial constraints, despite a ruling last autumn by the High Court to review the constitutionality of the laws.

This announcement does not, however, represent the first instance of such laws in Malawi being suspended. The enforcement of Malawi’s anti-gay laws had previously been halted for a brief period of time in November 2012 by the Justice Minister at the time, Ralph Kasambara. “If we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional, it would be an embarrassment to government,” Kasambara told Reuters at the time.

This move was viewed at the time to be in line with Malawian President Joyce Banda’s May 2012 commitment to decriminalize consensual sexual relations between two people of the same sex, as well as the previous Justice Minister Ephraim Chiume’s December 2011 inclusion of the country’s anti-gay laws within a list of pieces of legislation he preferred to see reviewed, in a report issued the same week as then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s landmark address before the United Nations summit in Geneva on the subject of LGBT rights.

However, this decision was quickly reversed a few days later under intense pressure and lobbying from the Malawi Council of Churches, a group of 24 Protestant churches in Malawi. Upon issuing this reversal, Kasambara stated that he would rather see the national parliament settle the issue.

Homosexuality is currently illegal in Malawi under Section 153 and 156 of the nation’s Penal Code, which prohibit “unnatural offenses” and offenses against “public decency,” respectively. The order issued today by the current Justice Minister will act to halt enforcement of these provisions.

 

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