Malawi suspends anti-gay laws

On Nov 5, 2012 Gay Star News reported Malawi announced a moratorium on all anti-gay laws and their enforcement in order to encourag a public debate about decriminalizing homosexuality.

Ralph Kasambara, who is minister of justice and the attorney general of Malawi, stated that move is a bid to encourage a public debate on whether homosexuality should continue to be criminalized.

Speaking with the Malawi Today daily he said:‘There is a moratorium on all such laws, meaning that police will not arrest or prosecute anyone based on these laws. These laws will not be enforced until the time that Parliament makes a decision.

‘The idea to issue a moratorium is that 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 moratorium announced today (5 November) means that Malawi’s anti-gay laws are temporarily suspended until they are reviewed, but not repealed.

Section 153 of the Malawi constitution prohibits ‘unnatural offences’ (i.e. same-sex acts) and stipulates up to fourteen years of imprisonment for the offenders.

Another section, 156 concerning ‘public decency’ is also used against Malawi’s LGBT community.

In late December 2009, a trans woman and a man, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, were arrested after holding a traditional ‘engagement’ party.

They were found guilty for violating sections 153 and 156 of and sentenced for fourteen years with hard labor.

After an international outcry Malawi’s late president Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned the couple on 29 May 2010.

Kasambara stated: ‘The idea to issue a moratorium is that 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.’ Continued