Malawi President Urges Repeal of Gay Ban

Posted May 18th, 2012 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Malawi's President Joyce Banda says she wants to repeal the country's laws against homosexuality, a move sure to be condemned by some religious and conservative groups.

President Banda told parliament Friday that indecency and unnatural acts laws will be repealed. But repealing a law requires a parliamentary vote and it is not clear whether she will get enough support.

Banda took over in April after the sudden death of her predecessor Bingu wa Mathurika.

Malawi faced international condemnation when two men were given 14-year prison sentences for celebrating their relationship. President Mathurika pardoned them, but said it was on humanitarian grounds. He said the couple committed a crime against Malawi's culture, religion and laws.

In her first state of the nation address, Ms. Banda said her government wants to normalize relations with Malawi's traditional development partners who were uncomfortable with its “bad” laws.

Malawi is one of the world's poorest countries and has long depended on international aid. But many of the donors cut aid under Mr. Mutharika, accusing him of economic mismanagement and political repression.

Homosexuality is banned or repressed in many African countries, notably Uganda and Nigeria. South Africa bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gay rights are protected, but homosexuals still face discrimination.