News / Africa

Suspension of Anti-gay Law Draws Mixed Reaction in Malawi

Lameck Masina
Legal authorities and civil rights leaders in Malawi are reacting differently to the government’s suspension of laws that criminalize homosexuality. 

Government authorities say the country has temporarily suspended the country’s homosexuality laws until Malawians debate the matter in parliament.  This means that Malawi police will not arrest or prosecute anyone based on these laws. This has attracted a heated debate among Malawians.

Malawi Attorney General Ralph Kasambara announced the decision to suspend laws criminalizing homosexuality last Thursday, in the capital, Lilongwe.

He was speaking during the public debate aimed to find ways of reaching a national consensus on how Malawi should move forward in addressing the same-sex relationship issue.

Kasambara, who is also minister of justice, says the suspension of the laws will give Malawians an opportunity to debate the issue without interference from the executive branch.

The human rights organizations the Center for Development of People and the Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) co-sponsored the debate.

"All in all, we are so much pleased that we are going in the right direction," said Undule Mwakasungula, the executive director for the CHRR. "As you are aware that there is so much homophobia against the gay community.  And, the community thinks they [homosexuals] don’t have rights. They don’t have free space in public life, so really it’s a move in the right direction."

The same-sex relationship issue has been a thorn in Malawi’s affairs, especially during the late Bingu wa Mutharika's government, when international donors cited the lack of sexual minority rights as one of the reasons some of them had frozen their aid.

But Mwakasungula rejected suggestions the government might have taken the stand to meet conditional terms of some donor aid.

"This is not about Western countries," he said. "This is about personal choice; sexual orientation. And, if you look deeper into some of the research which have been done, gay communities are everywhere in the world; blacks, whites, Indians, coloreds and the like. So let’s move away from issues that are going to divert the attention of addressing real problems.  This is about HIV and AIDS issues.  This is rights issue.”

However, the lawyers group the Malawi Law Society says only parliament has power to suspended laws.

“Any suspension of the applications of law must have the blessing of parliament," said John Gift Mwakhwawa, the president of the society. "No minister can verbally or over a written memorandum suspend the application of the law. It is amounting to the usurping the powers of the legislature. And, it is dangerous trend because next time one minister responsible for whatever laws will also wake up and suspend the application of those laws and we are creating a culture of impunity.”

Mwakhwawa says, although it is a fact that the existing anti-homosexual laws are not a part of the Malawi constitution, there is a need for government to follow procedures in dealing with the issue.

“The simple route to go," he said, "is to go to the constitutional court and say 'Do these provisions under our constitution stand the taste of constitutionalism of democracy or the standards that we are supposed to abide to, the international standards that are there?”

But observers express concerns that, in taking the matter to the constitutional court, there could be a delay because there are not enough judges in the country.  That, they say, makes it difficult to assemble three judges to sit as a constitution court.

Religious leaders are strongly against the suspension of the anti-gay laws.

"As a church, we were strongly against homosexuality. And, that’s no longer a secret because it was put on the papers and people heard about it.   So, up to now that is still the stand of the church in Malawi,” said Osborn Mbewe, the general secretary of Malawi Council of Churches.

Mbewe says the clergy are looking  to hear from parliament to hear from what it says on the matter before they take action.

The Malawi parliament is expected to begin a session on Monday, in the capital Lilongwe.  However, the issue on suspension of the homosexuality law does not appear to be on the agenda.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid