Malawi police end moratorium on anti-gay arrests

Malawi's location in East Africa
Malawi’s location in East Africa

Media outlets in Malawi yesterday reported the arrest of two men on homosexuality charges — despite a 2012 decision to halt such arrests countrywide.

Nyasa Times and Malawi24 reported that police in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, arrested Cuthbert Kulemela, 19, and Kelvin Gonani, 39, for allegedly having sexual intercourse inside Gonani’s home.

Police spokesperson Esther Nkwanda said the incident happened on Monday after the two had been at a bar. Afterward, she said, they went to Gonani’s house and had sex.

When Kulemela was leaving the house he met people whom Malawi24 called “community policing members” who asked him what had been going on in the house.  Kulemela reportedly said the two men had been making love, after which “residents invaded Gonani’s house.”

The two men reportedly face charges of sodomy, but have not appeared in court. Dec. 9

Malawi24 reported today that Kulemela and Gonani were released on bail after being taken to Kamuzu Central Hospital “for assessment.”

Malawi Justice Minister Janet Chikaya-Banda Malawi has stopped arresting people for same-sex intimacy pending a review of the country's anti-gay laws, Justice Minister Janet Chikaya-Banda told the U.N. Human Rights Committee in July 2014. (Photo courtesy of
Then Justice Minister Janet Chikaya-Banda said in 2014 that Malawi has stopped arresting people for same-sex intimacy pending a review of the country’s anti-gay laws. (Photo courtesy of

Malawi’s anti-homosexuality law is still on the books, but then Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Janet Chikaya-Banda announced last year that the country is no longer arresting people for same-sex acts.

Under the law, sexual intimacy between men is punishable by up to 14 years in prison; for women, the maximum punishment is five years. But the constitutionality of those laws is currently in question. Human rights activists argue that the laws violate Malawi’s constitutional protections for citizens regardless of their sex, race, tribe or religion.

The High Court is focused on a review of the case of three men — Amon Champyuni, Mathews Bello and Musa Chiwisi — who were convicted in 2011 and are serving sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years for practicing homosexuality.

Arrests under Malawi’s anti-gay laws had been on hold since November 2012, when then Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara declared a moratorium on arrests and prosecutions.  He later denied making that decision, but a later Nyasa Times article confirmed that in 2012 the government issued “a moratorium where it ordered police not to arrest people for same-sex acts until the anti-gay laws are reviewed by parliament.”


Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.


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