Malawi’s justice minister, Ralph Kasambara, announced on Monday 5th November 2012, that the country’s laws banning homosexuality would not be enforced until further debate on the matter can be carried out in parliament.
"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," he told the Reuters news agency in an interview.
Homosexuality is illegal in Malawi and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. In 2010, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were convicted for “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices between males” under Sections 153 and 156 of the Malawi Penal Code. On May 20, the two were sentenced to 14 years with hard labour, the maximum possible sentence. The two were later released after serving six months of their sentence, following former President Bingu wa Mutharika’s order for unconditional pardon and immediate release.
After taking office earlier in 2012, President Joyce Banda declared she would repeal Malawi’s ban on homosexuality, saying, "Some laws which were duly passed by the august house… will be repealed as a matter of urgency… these include the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts."
Pan Africa ILGA welcomes this decision by the Malawian government and believes that this is in the right direction. It is the government’s obligation to ensure non-discrimination in the enjoyment of human rights for all its citizens.
However, this step does not mean that the laws criminalising homosexuality have been repealed. We urge the Malawian government to fulfil its responsibility to promote and protect the human rights of all persons especially sexual minorities from discrimination. We urge the government to also review and repeal other discriminatory laws, which may legitimise violence, abuse, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
PAI believes these changes will help Human Right defenders, Civil society organisations particularly ‘The Centre For The Development Of People’ to carry out necessary interventions to meet the needs of LGBTI people in Malawi.