Malawi’s Law Commission will review the country’s sodomy laws as part of a review of laws passed by the governing Democratic Progressive Party under President Bingu wa Mutharika.
Malawians took to the streets on July 20 to protest oppressive laws, including a law that gave the Information Ministry the power to ban newspapers deemed not to serve Malawian interest, a law protecting the government and public officers from lawsuits, and a law allowing police to search and arrest people without providing reasons.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiumia said the legislation would go to the Law Commission as the first step towards a comprehensive review.
“The Government of Malawi wishes to announce to the Malawi nation that in view of the sentiments from the general public regarding certain laws and provisions of certain laws passed by the National Assembly, it is submitting the relevant laws and provisions of laws to the Law Commission for review,” Chiume said.
It is a dramatic about-face from the regime, with President wa Mutharika calling homosexuality “evil and very bad before the eyes of God” as recently as last year.
Malawian political commentators believe the Government’s move is an effort to repair relations with foreign donors like the US and UK who have in the last few months made strong statements about withholding aid from countries which persecute their LGBTI minorities.
In February, Malawi became one of the few countries in the world to outlaw sex between women. Justice Minister George Chaponda said it was to “ensure that homosexuality is criminalised without discrimination”.