Malawi will review its set of controversial anti-gay laws after receiving criticism from the West when the country sentenced a gay couple a 14-year jail term for sodomy charges, according to media reports.
"In view of the sentiments from the general public and in response to public opinion regarding certain laws, the government wishes to announce to the Malawi nation that it is submitting the relevant laws and provisions of laws to the Law Commission for review," Justice Minister Ephraim Chiume said.
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Homosexual acts in Malawi, which are illegal in the country, garnered international attention after a gay couple was sentenced the maximum 14-year prison term in 2010 after holding a wedding ceremony in the city of Blantyre, according to the AFP.
Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa, who gave the sentence, told the couple: "I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example," and "Malawi is not ready to see its sons getting married to its sons."
During the trial President Bingu wa Mutharika called homosexuality “called homosexuality "evil and very bad before the eyes of God,” but later pardoned the two after receiving international condemnation, the BBC reported.
Malawi’s decision to review the discriminatory laws comes just days after US State Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke in Geneva on Tuesday on the issue of human rights and the international LGBT community.
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“I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority,” Clinton said. “I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.”
In an unprecedented move, the US joined the UK to tie foreign aid to a country’s protection of sexual minorities.
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“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same,” Clinton said.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced last month that countries refusing to recognize gay rights would suffer reduced aid.
The push for gay decriminalization from Western governments have undoubtedly brought attention to Africa, where homosexual acts are illegal throughout most of the socially conservative and predominately religious continent.
The BBC details the shift in diplomatic relations between the two:
“Gay rights appear to have become a new frontier in diplomatic relations between Western powers and African governments, with the US and UK warning they would use foreign aid to push for homosexuality to be decriminalised on the socially conservative continent.”
Critics say, however, that cutting aid to countries will end up hurting those in most need, not the governments who enact the discriminatory laws.
The US’s current record on gay rights have also brought criticism. Same-sex marriage in America is only legal in six states and the federal Defense of Marriage Act that was enacted in 1996 recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman.