Multiple sources report that Malawi’s new president said in a Friday address that she wants to repeal the country’s laws that criminalize same-sex relationships.
This formed part of President Joyce Banda’s very first state of the nation address.
President Joyce Banda has said Malawi will overturn its ban on homosexual acts – the first African country to do so since 1994.
Several Western leaders have recently said they would cut aid to countries which did not recognise gay rights.
Mrs Banda took power last month after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died of a heart attack.
A Malawian man and a trans woman were convicted of homosexual acts in 2010.
After Western nations threatened potential sanctions former president Mutharika decided to pardon the couple on “humanitarian grounds” but said they had “committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws”. The media circus surrounding the court case meant the couple were made virtual pariahs.
President Banda’s desire to decriminalize LGBTs does not however make this a done deal.
The Speaker for the Malawi Assembly has already said he will oppose attempts to bring to the floor a bill legalizing homosexuality. This comes as religious institutions in the state heap on pressure for lawmakers to stick to the Church’s definition of what constitutes moral conduct.
It remains to be seen whether President Banda has the political currency to overcome such resistance, however this will largely be considered a landmark moment as Banda would be the first African leader outside of South Africa to speak out in such strong terms in favor of decriminalization.
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