Malawi president refuses to commit to repeal anti-gay laws

Joyce Banda, Malawi’s president, said she has no power to repeal anti-gay law and the matter is best left for the people to decide

Malawi president refuses to commit to repeal anti-gay laws
02 January 2013

Malawian president, Joyce Banda, refused to commit to repealing the country’s anti-gay laws.

She said she had nothing to state on whether the country should decriminalize same-sex relations or not, saying she would leave the matter for Malawians to decide for themselves.

Banda made these statements in response to questions posed to her by callers from across the country on Zodiak Broadcasting Service, on Monday (31 December 2012).

Quoted in the Naysa times she said: ‘The power to repeal or amend laws resets with the legislative house.

‘I left the issue of same-sex marriages in the hands of Malawians and I feel great listening to people debating the issue.

‘I don’t have powers to make laws, all the laws are passed in parliament and this depends on what people want. As a Christian I have my own feelings but as a leader I can’t impose my feelings on Malawians, let them decide’.

Banda also hinted that even western donors countries, particularly Britain, know that ‘Malawians are not ready’ for decriminalizing homosexuality.

She also said she would make no statements regarding same-sex marriages until Malawians are ready and have the final say.

Since pledging to a moratorium on anti-gay laws in her first State of the Nation speech in May 2012 Banda has been attacked by opposition MPs on the issue, accusing her of being out of step with the Malawian people.

As a result she backtracked from her statement in September 2012.

Justice minister Ralph Kasambara also similarly made a pledge in November but backtraced after being fiercely criticized by the churches’ leaders.

Section 153 of the Malawi constitution prohibits ‘unnatural offences’ (i.e. same-sex acts) and stipulates up to fourteen years of imprisonment for the offenders.

Another section, 156 concerning ‘public decency’ is also used against Malawi’s LGBT community.

In late December 2009, a trans woman and a man, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, were arrested after holding a traditional ‘engagement’ party.

They were found guilty for violating sections 153 and 156 of and sentenced for fourteen years with hard labor.

After an international outcry Malawi’s late president Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned the couple on 29 May 2010.

A recent report on the assessment of the country’s laws and policies commissioned by the office of the president and cabinet recommended decriminalisation of homosexuality as a way of ensuring effective fight against the spread of HIV.

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