Malawi has suspended its law which
criminalizes gay sex as lawmakers consider repealing it altogether.
President Joyce Banda, who ascended to
her position in April after the death of her predecessor, President
Bingu wa Mutharika, backed repeal of the law shortly after assuming
Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said
Malawi's indecency and unnatural acts laws would be set aside until
parliament votes on a new law.
Gay men face up to 14 years
imprisonment if convicted under the statutes.
“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,” Reuters quoted Kasambara as saying. “It is better
to let one criminal get away with it rather than throw a lot of
innocent people in jail.”
Sexual conduct between people of the
same sex is banned in 37 African countries.
If repealed, Malawi would become the
first African country in nearly two decades to decriminalize gay
In 2010, then-President Mutharika
pardoned two men who were charged with and found guilty of unnatural
acts and gross indecency for participating in a symbolic engagement
ceremony. However, Mutharika remained opposed to gay rights,
describing the gay ceremony as “satanic” and “a crime against
our culture, against our religion and against our laws.” The men
had been sentenced to serve 14 years of hard labor.
The sentence was condemned by the
United States and Britain. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley
called the harsh sentence “appalling.”