Joyce Banda
Malawi's President Wants to Decriminalize Being Gay

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com May 18 2012 11:26 AM ET

Malawi's new president wants to decriminalize being gay in her country, she announced in a national address.

The Associated Press reports that President Joyce Banda, who took over after her predecessor died in office, user her first nationwide address to make her declaration.

"Indecency and unnatural acts laws shall be repealed," she told Parliament, saying the country's "bad laws" her made their trading partners "uncomfortable."

The U.S. State Department was one of many that issued a statement in 2010 condemning the conviction of a gay couple there — Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza — who were sent to prison for 14 years after getting engaged. Malawi's president later pardoned the couple as international outrage grew.

It's still illegal to be gay in most African countries. And some Western leaders have increased tension by calling for tying foreign aid money to human rights requirements. For example, Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, blasted U.K. prime minister David Cameron’s warning in October that his country might cut off some aid if places like Zimbabwe fail to protect gay rights.