Malawi made headlines around the world in 2009 when two gay men were arrested and charged with “gross indecency” for getting married. Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment and spent five months in jail until then President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them on May 29 the following year.
Malawi is a largely a socially conservative country, and lawmakers may decide abolishing these laws altogether could be alienating to their constituents, some say.
Mr. Sharra says he doubts the law will pass if left to a debate in Parliament. “You do hear a few people pointing out that [they] are human beings and have rights but they are few and far between.”
Many Malawians who oppose the change “aren’t citing African tradition or morality, but are saying that we can’t be dictated to by foreigners,” Sharra adds.
Western donors largely pulled out of Malawi under its previous, autocratic president, Bingu wa Mutharika. Some see the suspension of laws criminalizing homosexuality as a way to please foreign donors, who have been coaxed back into the country by Mr. Mutharika’s successor, Joyce Banda, who took over as president in April.
President Banda became Africa’s second female head of state after Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Along with other donor-pleasing actions like devaluing the currency in line with International Monetary Fund recommendations and sacking corrupt politicians and security chiefs, she pledged to normalize same-sex relationships “as a matter of urgency.”