Malawi Suspends Anti-Gay Laws

While Uganda is about to pass harsh Kill the Gays legislation, Malawi may set a trend by looking to decriminalize homosexuality

By Melanie Nathan, November 05, 2012.

Today Malawi took the lead in what may become a trend amongst the African nations which still criminalize homosexuality, to begin a formal process to repeal laws that make it a crime to be a gay or transgender.  Malawi suspended laws against same-sex relationships on Monday and ordered police not to arrest gays pending a decision on whether to repeal the legislation, a source of friction with the impoverished southern African nation’s donors.

The Minister of Justice called for an immediate moratorium on arrests and prosecutions under the existing penal code as Parliament reviews it’s constitutionality.   Malawi is one of 36 countries in Africa and 76 globally that make it a crime to be gay or transgender; at least 10 of these countries carry penalties of life imprisonment or death.

Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara told Reuters: “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.  It is better to let one criminal get away with it rather than throw a lot of innocent people in jail.”

The move follows an earlier statement by President Joyce Banda where she expressed her intent to remove the laws.  The announcement was greeted by criticism from other African leaders and congratulations from governments and human rights advocates around the world.

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