Malawi will be suspending its harsh anti-gay laws in response to the African country’s current struggles with its state budget, according to Malawian paper Nyasa Times. Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Janet Chikaya-Banda addressed the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva last Wednesday to inform the international body of the current reforms in the Malawian penal code. Members of the police have already been ordered not to arrest any citizen engaging in same-sex sexual activities, according to The Advocate.
Banda explained to the committee that the country will be suspending its anti-gay laws due to the growing financial difficulties of the landlocked nation. Malawi, who had until recently implemented extremely harsh policies against the country’s homosexuals, is suspending its own anti-gay laws for the first time since 2010 to make way for budget rearrangements.
Malawi’s anti-gay laws can send LGBT people to up to 14 years in jail with forced hard labor. However, because state funding for LGBT imprisonment can no longer be sustained, the country has made bold steps to cancel their anti-gay laws, realizing that they can no longer afford to fund more cells in Malawi’s already-crowded prison system.
The law suspension is being perceived by some progressive Malawians as a step towards human rights improvement in Malawi, despite the fact that the primary reason behind the law’s suspension is economic in nature, and had little to do with considerations for human rights.
The suspension of the anti-gay law has been opposed by traditional and religious figures in Malawi. Some who expressed disagreement with the suspension argued that homosexual activities gravely opposes Malawi’s religious and traditional values. A few key figures in Malawi opine that keeping the anti-gay provisions in tact would prevent the spread of immorality in the developing African nation.
Malawi shares anti-gay sentiments with many countries in Africa, most notoriously Uganda, who had been the center of human rights controversy for the past few months for their recently passed homosexuality criminalization laws. The gravity of Uganda’s harsh anti-gay policies have been recently featured on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
The former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, courted with the proposition of repealing the harsh anti-gay laws in 2012, but was met with overwhelming opposition from Malawi’s conservative circles. It did gain support from international human rights bodies, including a few groups from the U.S. and Europe.
[Image from See-ming lee]