Malawi [BBC backgrounder] President Joyce Banda announced in her first national address [text] on Friday that she will decriminalize homosexual acts. The provisions she intends to repeal are Section 153 and 156 [ILGA backgrounder, PDF] of the Penal Code, which provide 14 years or 5 years imprisonment, respectively, for anyone engaging in male homosexual activity or relationships. Lesbianism is not criminalized in Malawi. The laws have been widely criticized by the international community. The announcement comes as a move to normalize relations with Malawi's development partners in response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration's [official websites] pledge to promote LGBT rights when granting foreign aid [JURIST report].
Gay rights continue to be a contentious issue [JURIST comment] throughout the world. In February, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for Uganda to end its discrimination of the LGBT community [JURIST report]. This comes just two months after the UN released a report [JURIST report] detailing widespread violence against LGBT individuals. That same month, Malawi decided to review [JURIST report] its anti-homosexuality laws. Last November, Russia passed a controversial law banning the "promotion" of homosexuality [JURIST report].