Malawi’s President Mutharika
The Malawian government has “clarified” comments made by President Mutharika regarding apparent plans for a referendum on same-sex marriage.
Last week, local media quoted Mutharika as announcing that “contentious issues” like marriage equality would be put to the public to decide in referendums.
The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has since reported that the government denied the claims in a statement, insisting that the president’s comments were “just an opinion.”
“The State House says the president does not make laws and as such, President Mutharika could not by-pass Parliament and the Cabinet by suggesting for a referendum,” explained MBC.
These developments will only add to confusion about the status of the LGBT community in Malawi.
While male and female homosexuality is illegal, with penalties of up to 14-years imprisonment, the Secretary for Justice and Solicitor General Dr Janet Chikaya-Banda told a UN human rights committee last year that the authorities would not enforce the ban.
In March, Malawi’s Health Minister Jean Kalilani insisted, however, that the country will not end its gay sex ban. “It is still a crime to anyone engaging in the practice,” she said.
It is believed that three men – Amon Champyuni, Mathew Bello and Mussa Chiwisi – remain jailed on homosexuality charges in Malawi.
In April, the country effectively banned same-sex marriage through the adoption of the new Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law which defines marriage as only being possible between people of the opposite sex.