Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Malawi's anti-gay legislation targeted

New president wants to repeal 'bad laws'

  • Print

BLANTYRE, Malawi -- President Joyce Banda declared Friday she wants to repeal Malawi's laws against homosexual acts, going against a trend in Africa toward increasingly singling out gays for prosecution.

Banda, who assumed the presidency in April when her predecessor died, made the announcement in her first state of the nation address.

"Indecency and unnatural-acts laws shall be repealed," she said. But repealing a law requires a parliamentary vote, and it is unclear how much support Banda would have for sweeping changes in this impoverished and conservative nation in southern Africa.

Malawi faced international condemnation for the conviction and 14-year prison sentences given in 2010 to two men who were arrested after celebrating their engagement and were charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency.

Then-president Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned the couple on "humanitarian grounds only" while insisting they had "committed a crime against our culture, against our religion and against our laws."

Mutharika died in office in April. Banda, who was vice-president, is serving out his term, which ends in 2014.

Banda also said her government wants to normalize relations with "our traditional development partners who were uncomfortable with our bad laws."

Human rights activists applauded Banda's speech, but they cautioned getting the necessary backing from parliament won't be easy.

"The issue of homosexuality has been a contentious issue," said human rights activist Undule Mwakasungula. "Definitely it will raise controversy in parliament."

In South Africa, the only African country with laws protecting gay rights, activist Mark Heywood said Banda would have international support.

"I hope that she is persuasive enough in her own country," Heywood said.

South Africa's 1996 constitution bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Activists have gone to court to overturn laws such as one banning sodomy. Homosexuals have had the right to marry since 2006 but face discrimination and sometimes violence.

"It's really important for other African countries other than South Africa to move in this direction," Heywood said of Banda's move. "Symbolically, I think it is very important for Africa."

Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries.

Also Friday, Banda said in her address she was appointing a commission of inquiry to look into when and how her predecessor Mutharika died, what medical attention he received and the "activities of various individuals during and in managing the transition."

After Mutharika died April 5, the government took two days to confirm his death and to allow Banda to step in. The delay had led to speculation that Banda's rivals were trying to prevent her from becoming president, even though the constitution decrees the vice-president should take over.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 19, 2012 A34

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

RMTC preview of Good People

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Winnipeg Free Press 090528 STAND UP...(Weather) One to oversee the pecking order, a pack of pelican's fishes the eddies under the Red River control structure at Lockport Thursday morning......

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google