An update from Malawi, whose brand new President Joyce Banda made international news this month when she promised to repeal the southern African nation's anti-gay laws. Malawi would become the first African nation to do so since South Africa in 1994.
Parliamentary leaders of Banda's ruling Democratic Progressive Party have announced a "moratorium" on arrests and prosecutions of suspected gays and lesbians. Repeal is not expected immediately, reports Malawi Today.
Leader of government in Malawi parliament Henry Phoya said Tuesday that the controversial law that restricts homosexuality is not part of business in the current sitting. The statement sharply contradicts President Joyce Banda’s statement that the law will be repealed as a matter of urgency.
"We don’t have any business on same sex marriages and you can cross check with our time table. If you ask me about what the president said, then the message was that she would like to see these laws reviewed some time in future,” Phoya said. [...]
"There’s currently a moratorium on the law, so there will be no arrests or prosecutions based on the law,” [Justice Minister] Ralph Kasambara, the justice minister, told Zodiak Radio.
Zodiak Radio broadcast an unconfirmed report that "two lesbians reportedly got engaged" in Blantyre, the nation's second largest city and its commercial capital. It's worth noting that the radio station is controlled by the opposition party.
Malawi faced international condemnation for the May 2010 conviction and 14-year prison sentences given to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. The couple was convicted of "unnatural acts" and gross indecency" after holding an engagement ceremony. The late President Mutharika pardoned the couple on "humanitarian grounds."
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in Malawi, as they are in at least 38 of 54 African countries. The maximum punishment is 14 years behind bars and hard labor. In September 2009, a senior official first suggested that the conservative African nation "must recognize" gay rights if it hopes to properly address HIV/AIDS.
Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality. Kenya's parliament and supreme court are considering decriminalizing its sodomy statute.
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