UN told that Malawi has stopped arresting people for gay sex

Review of anti-gay laws stalled over lack of financial resources, minister says

Malawi’s justice minister has told the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva that there is a moratorium on arrests of people for gay sex while the country’s anti-gay laws are set to be reviewed, Nyasa Times reports.

But Janet Chikaya-Banda, who was asked to report on Malawi’s progress toward decriminalizing gay sex, which now carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison with hard labour, says the review has stalled because of inadequate financial resources, 76 crimes notes. While Banda told the UN that there is political will to address the issue, a report submitted by the justice minister indicates there is no government apparatus in place to look into acts of violence based on sexual orientation, nor is there a public education campaign to raise awarenes about the issue, the Times says.

When she became president in April 2012, Joyce Banda initially signalled her intent to reverse Malawis so-called indecency laws. Some laws which were duly passed by the august house . . . will be repealed as a matter of urgency . . . these include the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts,Banda said in May 2012. She reportedly received support for the move from a majority of parliamentarians but faced opposition from church leaders and the wider society.

In October of the same year, Banda backed away from her pledge, saying her country was not ready for such a change. Anyone who has listened to the debate in Malawi realizes that Malawians are not ready to deal with that right now,” she said. “I as a leader have no right to influence how people feel.

Banda was defeated overwhelmingly in presidential elections in May.

Natasha Barsotti is originally from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. She had high aspirations of representing her country in Olympic Games sprint events, but after a while the firing of the starting gun proved too much for her nerves. So she went off to university instead. Her first professional love has always been journalism. After pursuing a Master of Journalism at UBC , she began freelancing at Xtra West — now Xtra Vancouver — in 2006, becoming a full-time reporter there in 2008.

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