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Malawi Solicitor General Says Country Has Suspended Anti-Gay Laws

Janet Chikaya-Banda

At a meeting with the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva last week, Malawi’s Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Janet Chikaya-Banda said that the southeast African nation has suspended arresting people for homosexuality until its anti-gay laws are reviewed.

MalawiBack in 2012, it was first reported that Malawi was suspending its anti-gay penal codes and ordering police not to arrest gays. However, the country’s Justice Minister quickly backed away from claims that he was reversing any anti-gay laws, leading to doubts as to whether gays in the country were safe from legal prosecution.

Nyasa Times adds that Banda told the committee the review of the anti-gay laws was stalled due to lack of financial resources but that there was political will to deal with the matter. 

Malawi, like most other African countries, has harsh laws on the books that criminalize consensual homosexual acts. Individuals convicted under Malawi’s anti-gay laws can be punished with up to 14 years imprisonment with hard labor.


Macklemore Collaborator Ryan Lewis Reveals Mom is HIV+, Announces Healthcare Project - VIDEO

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After receiving a blood transfusion in 1984, Julie Lewis — the mother of "Same Love" Macklemore collaborator, Ryan Lewis — contracted HIV (something Ryan had never discussed in interviews until now). She survived when doctors thought she wouldn't, and both Ryan and his sister Laura Irwin both were born without HIV, something they only had a 25 percent chance of doing.

Julie was able to live thanks in part to quality healthcare, and in her sake Ryan has decided to spearhead a global health initiative called The 30/30 Project. The goal is to set up 30 comprehensive health clinics in high-need areas such as Malawi — the place where 30/30 would first like to set up a clinic — and to have these clinics stay open for at least 30 years.

If successful, these clinics could help treat people without medical access living in areas most affected by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other life-threatening illnesses. At the time of press, the 30/30 IndieGoGo page has already raised $56,261 of its $100,000 goal.

Watch the promotional video AFTER THE JUMP...

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Continue reading "Macklemore Collaborator Ryan Lewis Reveals Mom is HIV+, Announces Healthcare Project - VIDEO" »


UN to Challenge Malawi's Anti-Gay Laws in Court

The United Nations' AIDS taskforce and human rights groups plan to take Malawi to court over its anti-gay laws, Reuters reports:

MalawiThe legislation has strained relations between President Joyce Banda's government and international donors, whose aid is desperately needed in the impoverished country.

UNAIDS, the Malawi Law Society and local rights groups will ask the high court on March 17 to overturn as unconstitutional laws banning same-sex relationships.

They will also challenge the convictions of three men jailed in 2011. Homosexuality carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years in the southern African country. "Our argument is that as long as same-sex relationships are consensual and done in private no one has business to get bothered," law society spokeswoman Felicia Kilembe said.

 


Malawian Jailed For 2010 Gay Wedding: 'I Have No Regrets'

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As Americans in Washington state celebrate same-sex marriage and UK lawmakers work toward equality there, hundreds of thousands of LGBT people still live in fear, many of them in African nations like Malawi, where Tiwonge Chimbalanga (pictured, right) and then-husband Steven Monjeza were sentenced in 2010 to 14 years in prison for getting married.

A massive, global outcry and the intervention of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon led late Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika to pardon them.

Chimbalanga, no longer with Monjeza, is living as a woman in South Africa, and recently sat down with AFP for her first interview since her marriage started an international incident:

"I don't have any regrets, I didn't do anything wrong," Chimbalanga, who identifies as a transgender woman despite being tried as a gay man, told AFP.

...

I had mixed feelings because on the one hand I felt it was a wonderful thing for me to do a normal, natural thing like getting married, whilst on the other hand it was very painful," said Chimbalanga.

"I was beaten in prison. During the trial the security guards ill-treated me. I was verbally abused and suffered all sorts of inhumane treatments, I have scars from the beatings. Yet I felt good that I was able to do what I wanted to do."

Chimbalanga says in Malawi there are two sets of human rights, one for the rich and one for the poor.

"I want everyone to have their human rights and freedom to choose what they want to be and the only way to achieve that is by coming out and claiming their rights," she said.

She also said she plans on marrying again in South Africa, "Even here in South Africa I want to get married and I am going to invite the reporters from Malawi to come and witness for themselves and to report the truth about it. I want the whole world to know because this is not the end."


Malawi Minister Now Claims Nation Not Reversing Anti-Gay Laws

MalawigaypaperHuman Rights activists and diplomats the world over congratulated Malawi for saying this week that they suspended homophobic laws and stopped arresting people just for being gay.

"If we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government," Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said, according to Reuters.

But now Kasambara's claiming he never said that. The LA Times reports that Kasambara told Malawi's Daily Times, "There was no such announcement and there was no discussion about same-sex marriages. Nobody talked about suspension of any provision of the penal code."

So all that talk about Malawi leading the way on LGBT rights in Africa? Forget it. Instead remember that a Malawian gay couple were sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 - again, just for being gay. Their picture was run on the front of newspapers all across the country, as seen above.


Malawi Suspends Anti-Homosexuality Laws, Orders Police Not to Arrest Gays

Malawi suspended its anti-gay laws on Monday amid debate about whether they should be repealed over human rights backlash that has left the country without some of its financial support, Reuters reports:

MalawiHomosexuality is banned in Malawi - as it is in 36 other African states - and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, but Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said he wanted debate on the issue before parliament decided whether to keep the laws or not.

"If we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government," he told Reuters.

"It is better to let one criminal get away with it rather than throw a lot of innocent people in jail."

Malawi Today adds:

Kasambara, who is also Attorney General, said government wants to encourage debate and decide on whether laws against same- sex relationships should continue to be criminalized.

“There is a moratorium on all such laws, meaning that police will not arrest or prosecute anyone based on these laws. These laws will not be enforced until the time that Parliament makes a decision,” he said.

In legal parlance, a moratorium is used when the Executive arm of government, which is mandated to enforce laws, decides to temporarily suspend enforcement of a legislation, especially when it raises controversies that require its review.


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