This is just brilliant. Malawi's new president has declared that she wants to repeal the southern African nation's anti-gay laws and sodomy statutes. President Joyce Banda's move reverses the recent trend in Africa in which gays have been increasingly singled out for prosecution. Malawi would become the first African nation to do this since South Africa in 1994, reports the BBC.
Mrs Banda took power last month after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died of a heart attack. She has since reversed several of his policies, including devaluing the currency, in a bid to get donor funding restored. Many donors cut aid under Mr Mutharika, accusing him of economic mismanagement and political repression.
In her first state of the nation address to parliament, Mrs Banda said: "Some laws which were duly passed by the august house... will be repealed as a matter of urgency... these include the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts."
The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in the main city, Blantyre, says the president has the support of a majority of MPs and so should be able to get parliament to overturn the law. However, he says it will be an unpopular move with many church leaders, as well as the wider population in this conservative country.
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."
Banda is the continent's newest and second female president. Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the other.
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.
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