The people of Malawi apparently aren’t ready to repeal the country’s laws against homosexual activity, says President Joyce Banda, who has vowed to seek to overturn them.
Current law in Malawi provides for imprisonment for up to five years for “indecent practices between males” and up to 14 years for “unnatural offenses” such as same-sex intercourse.
While in the United States for a speech to the United Nations, Banda told the Associated Press yesterday that discussions in Malawi about her request to parliament to repeal those laws shows that the public does not support her plan. She said:
Anyone who has listened to the debate in Malawi realizes that Malawians are not ready to deal with that right now. I as a leader have no right to influence how people feel….
Where Malawi is and most African countries are, is maybe where America or the U.K. where about 100 years ago. The best thing the world can do is to allow each country to take its course, to allow each country to have that debate freely without the pressure of being pushed.
We have seen countries where homosexuals have been killed. Why? Because, in my view, the country — the nation— wasn’t ready.
The Malawi Council of Churches has opposed repeal. It has also protested against threats from countries such as the United Kingdom to withhold foreign aid to countries with laws against homosexuality.
“The council understands and believes that Malawi needs aid, and therefore asks that homosexuality should not be used as a benchmark to penalize and put to risk the lives of millions of innocent Malawians,” the council said in a statement reported in the Nyasa Times.
Kamuzu Chibambo, head of the Malawian opposition party, said decriminalizing homosexuality would be a “grave mistake” and urged parliament “to resist any intention directly or indirectly to legalize same-sex marriages.”
The country was the focus of intense international criticism in 2010 the 14-year prison sentences given to two men who were arrested after celebrating their engagement. Then-President Bingu wa Mutharika later pardoned them, but said they had “committed a crime against our culture.” Banda became president on Mutharika’s death in April.
News of Banda’s interview attracted online comments both pro and con in the Nyasa Times.
“Bravo, Madam Joyce Banda, for telling the white folks that we are not legalising same-sex marriage. A marriage is a legal union between a man and a woman. Gays and lesbians are mentally challenged beings who are demon possessed,” said one.
Another commenter said, “I am very disappointed in the President. She has made a complete U-turn from what she announced at the state opening of the National Assembly. … Decriminalisation of homosexuality is being equated to the same as accepting same-sex marriage. The two are not the same, but it is a good tactic for whipping up support against decriminalisation.”
Read the full AP story here: “Malawi’s Banda says country unlikely to overturn laws against homosexuality.”
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