A court in Malawi has ordered the country’s anti-gay law back into force.
The country’s government, which is heavily reliant on support from NGOs and Western aid money, had previously confirmed that it would no longer arrest people for same-sex sexual acts – an agreement first laid out in 2012 after a prolonged campaign.
When two men were arrested on gay sex grounds in December, Malawi’s Justice Minister has stepped in to quash the case and impose a “moratorium” on gay sex convictions.
However, Malawi24 reports that this week a senior judge in Mzuzu has instructed Malawi Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions to continue to enforce the law, while the government’s decision is “reviewed”.
Judge Dingiswayo Madise claimed that any person who disobeys the order shall be guilty of contempt of court.
It comes after three pastors had sought to challenge the government decision.
Minister for Justice Samuel Tembenu previously acknowledged the viewpoint that no one should be arrested on the grounds of their sexuality or gender identity, and re-committed to reviewing the country’s anti-gay laws.
However, he added that any review would be carried out “in consultation with the people of Malawi as prescribed by the Constitution”.
Even Malawian commentators had expressed fear that if allowed to continue, the country’s anti-gay laws could impact on aid contributions received from the West – on which the country is heavily reliant.
One Nyasa Times columnist warned not to “prick the backsides” of donors, writing: “Most people in England would be appalled to hear that people in this day and age are still being arrested for their sexual identities.
“And what many people in Malawi need to appreciate is that the people of England, America, Germany do not wish to see their tax money being spent in countries that discriminate on these grounds.
“Malawi can exercise its so called sovereignty if it wishes: continue this discrimination, and tear up the donor’s cheques in the process.”