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Malawi president urges repeal of gay ban

May 18, 2012


Joyce Banda gets out of a car during her inauguration on April 7, 2012 as Malawi's new president, becoming its first female leader in a ceremony in the capital Lilongwe. -AFP (File Photo)

BLANTYRE: Malawi's new President Joyce Banda urged parliament on Friday to repeal the country's ban on homosexuality along with unpopular laws that allow newspaper bans and warrantless arrests.

Banda wants to repeal some of the more oppressive laws pushed through by her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika, who died of a heart attack April 5.

“Some of the laws that were duly passed by this august house ... will be repealed as a matter of urgency,” Banda told parliament.

The laws include the “indecent practices and unnatural acts,” she added, referring to the gay ban's legal name.

Mutharika's increasingly hardline laws led to Malawi being ostracised by many in the international community, including major donors the US, Britain and Germany, which suspended funds to Malawi.

The southern African nation's international image has been somewhat rehabilitated under Banda, and her move to repeal the laws is a latest effort to address donor concerns about poor governance under Mutharika.

Banda said Malawi should also repeal its “bad” laws that allow authorities to ban newspapers, give police the power to make warrantless arrests, and forbid lawsuits against government officials.

The laws have been under review since December by the Malawi Law Commission, which is tasked with ensuring legislation complies with the constitution.

Banda's recommendations need to be approved by parliament. Because she heads a new party, these measures will become a first test of her ability to pass laws.