In the past, the situation for LGBT in Malawi has been very difficult. Laws against what the government has been calling “unnatural acts” and “gross indecency” have led to the persecution and incarceration of many LGBT people. In 2010, Malawi received international criticism for the arrest and 14-year prison sentences of two gay men who were caught celebrating their engagement. Amidst a hostile climate for LGBT people in the county, hopeful signs are emerging.
In May, President Joyce Banda announced her intentions to repeal Malawi’s oppressive laws against homosexual acts. This historic announcement was made during her very first state of the nation speech. Malawi, which is an impoverished and conservative southern African nation, requires the support of a parliamentary vote to change these laws and President Banda is hoping for political support.
This decision by President Banda was a choice to reach out to the global community and garner support from development partners. In her speech, the President said, “our traditional development partners [are] uncomfortable with our bad laws”.
This is a clear sign that international pressure to support LGBT rights, even in some of the most LGBT unfriendly environments in the world, is making a difference. The two men who were arrested in 2010 were eventually pardoned on humanitarian grounds because of global outcry.
It is evident that we must continue to put pressure on countries with anti-LGBT laws in support of the freedom of others who may not have the privilege of being able to raise up their voices in protest.