Malawi Suspends Antigay Law, Citing Financial Woes

With a potential 14-year prison and hard-labor sentence hanging over their heads, gay Malawians are getting a reprieve from fear of arrest, as a government official says the state can't afford to jail LGBT people.

BY Thom Senzee

July 16 2014 6:50 PM ET

Malawi Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Janet Chikaya-Banda

The government in Malawi "is moving to suspend laws against homosexuality," according to the Malawian newspaper Nyasa Times.

Police have been ordered not to arrest people for engaging in same-sex sexual activity, which is punishable in the southeast African nation by up to 14 years in prison with hard labor.

Malawi has told the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva that police in the nation are no longer arresting people for homosexuality — and that the there is "political will" to review the country's harsh antigay law, according to Towleroad.

After a government minister announced in 2012 that Malawi would consider decriminalizing homosexuality, the U.N. Human Rights Committee asked Malawi to report on its progress in reversing the draconian antigay laws. 

As it turns out, Malawi simply can't afford to enforce its antigay laws, according to the nation's justice secretary and solicitor general. Citing a lack of funds, Janet Chikaya-Banda told the Human Rights Committee last week that no formal body had been created to review the possibility of decriminalizing homosexuality in Malawi, but that there is political will to do so.

But that stated "political will" isn't reflected in the daily lives of LGBT Malawians, notes the Times, citing reports of growing homophobia in the country.

The government in Lilongwe, Malawi's capital, has been slow to act on several fronts regarding the safety of LGBT people.

"Malawi has not set up a mechanism to specifically monitor cases of violence based on sexual orientation, nor has it set up awareness-raising campaigns on the same," said Chikaya-Banda in her statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council last week.
 

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