July 18, 2014 – Reported by the Human Rights Campaign – The Malawian government has announced that it has suspended enforcement of laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct, according to the Malawian newspaper Nyasa Times.
Malawi’s Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Janet Chikaya-Banda told the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva last Wednesday that the police had already been ordered to stop arresting people who engage in same-sex sexual activity.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison with forced hard labor. This law has been on hold since 2012 due to the lack of state funding for imprisonment. In November 2013, the Malawi High Court decided to review the constitutionality of the nation’s ban on homosexual intercourse.
The question of decriminalization of homosexuality in Malawi has been debated since former President Joyce Banda took office in 2012. She called for repealing the penal code but later told international reporters that the country might not be prepared for such a change. The suspension of the anti-LGBT law has been opposed by some religious figures arguing that homosexuality is alien to the Malawian culture.
Malawi received international attention in 2009 when two men were arrested and sentenced to 14 years in jail for declaring their union with a traditional ceremony. They were later pardoned by the late President Bingu wa Mutharika after an international outcry, which included notable voices like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Madonna.