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UNAIDS launches legal challenge to Malawi’s ban on gay sex

The United Nations body tasked with tackling HIV around the world has announced it will join local activists and the Malawi Law Society in a court challenge to Malawi’s law criminalizing gay sex
Malawi President Joyce Banda
Photo by Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development

UNAIDS will join with local human rights activists and the Malawi Law Society to challenge Malawi’s anti-gay laws.

Malawi’s President Joyce Banda said her government would repeal her country’s colonial era sodomy law in May of 2012 and it did suspend the law in November of that year.

However by January of 2013 Banda had backed away from the reform after months of attacks on her government by Opposition MPs over the issue.

UNAIDS and local groups will take the matter before Malawi’s High Court on 17 March and will ask it to declare the country’s laws criminalizing homosexuals unconstitutional.

They will also challenge the convictions of three men who were convicted under the law in 2011 before its suspension.

‘Our argument is that as long as same-sex relationships are consensual and done in private no one has business to get bothered,’ Malawi Law Society spokeswoman Felicia Kilembe told Reuters.

This is the first time that UNAIDS has intervened legally in a country in this way.

Section 153 of the Malawi constitution prohibits ‘unnatural offenses’ (i.e. same-sex acts) and stipulates up to fourteen years of imprisonment for the offenders, while another section, 156 concerning ‘public decency’ is also used against Malawi’s LGBTI community.

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