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Malawi: towards decriminalization of homosexuality?

Bingu wa Mutharika, President slumped in his suit of homophobia. © Weforum.org / Eric Miller.

(Blogmensgo, December 13, 2011) The Minister of Justice for Malawi provided the Commission for government laws on the 8th December 2011, a bill to decriminalize homosexuality. The precise timing of the review text and possible adoption was not specified.

Officially, the government of Malawi would like to consider "the sentiments of the public" and make a "response to public opinion on certain laws." Unofficially, it is to retain the support of Western donors.

The Penal Code of Malawi considers homosexuality and sodomy as "indecent practices and acts against nature" liable to fourteen years imprisonment. It imposed the maximum sentence in a court last year to a gay couple to be married as symbolic.  President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them shortly after the verdict, but this was after five months of preventive detention.

The announcement of the Minister Ephraim Chiume aims to give pledges to donor countries that have recently clamped down against the small country in southern Africa, where there are 14% positive. International aid Malawi maintains a drip, but its Western partners now want guarantees for the respect of democracy, individual freedoms and human rights.

The British Prime Minister opposed hostilities by suspending its aid programs in Malawi since July 2011. In addition to the economic and political criteria, the UK requires respect for the rights of gays and lesbians in any country that it sponsors, without which the British aid will be reduced or eliminated.

The European Union is almost as tough on Malawi, U.S. President Barack Obama said on December 6, 2011, that he also wants to put the fight against homophobic discrimination in the heart of its international policy, but without going to the financial sanctions.

Comment. In Malawi, the rights of the LGBT community are absent and the head of state publicly likened gays to dogs. Citizens have no right to assign the state judiciary, the police have the right to search without commission and the press especially the right to remain silent.

So in response to pressure from Western governments that the Minister Ephraim Chiume passed its bill on the decriminalization of homosexuality along with text to enhance press freedom and civil liberties.

It also is a trick to double trigger: the bill decriminalizing homosexuality can be adopted more easily if it is hidden in the middle of more consensual text (in Malawi, homophobia is still alive), and a possible rejection of the other bills would serve as an excuse to torpedo one of the decriminalization of homosexuality.

In short, Malawi is a country where democracy remains locked up in a dictionary.

This article has been translated from our French blog, the view the original version please click here.

Matt & Philca / MensGo


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