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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora