Human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has applauded Malawi government following the announcement by Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara that Police have been ordered not to arrest or prosecute homosexuals until parliament has debated on whether to to repeal the anti-homosexuality laws.
Kasambara made the announcement during a debate Thursday night in Lilongwe, that after President Joyce Banda made a decision that Malawians should debate the issue, all the laws that criminalise same-sex relationship are no longer in force until the matter is concluded.
Amnesty International welcomed the announcement as a “historic step” forward in the fight against discrimination in the country.
“Amnesty International welcomes Minister Kasambara’s statement and hopes it serves as the first step towards ending discrimination and persecution based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity in Malawi,” said Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International’s southern Africa director in a statemet made available to Nyasa Times.
At present, homosexual acts carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.
“We urge the government not to lose momentum on this basic human rights issue and to ensure the full repeal of these discriminatory and hate-filled laws,” said AI in the statement.
Malawi made world headlines in 2010 when two gay men were arrested for getting married. Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20, were arrested and locked up for five months during their trial and after their conviction, unti the then president Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them on May 29 amid international outrage and protests.
AI pointed out that criminalisation of individuals on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity violatesMalawi’s obligations under treaties it has ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Malawian Constitution. These obligate Malawi to respect and protect freedom from discrimination, freedom of conscience, expression and right to privacy.
Criminalisation laws can also violate the right to health as set out under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, also ratified by Malawi.