A new report has found that Malawi’s anti-gay laws mean that members of the LGBT+ community are vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, physical violence and discrimination.
Sections 153 and 156 of Malawi’s Criminal Code prohibit “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices between males,” acccording to the Human Rights Watch, who released the new report.
The law means that men who engage in same-sex sexual activity can be jailed for up to 14 years, and women for up to five.
The wide-ranging report found that people whose gender expression differs from what is expected of them, including transgender people, were most likely to be targeted with violence and discrimination.
For the report, the Human Rights Watch interviewed a number of LGBT+ people in Malawi, who told stories of police brutality for their sexual or gender identity.
One woman, who is named as Olivia in the report and is transgender, said she and her friend – who is also trans – were arrested after they were attacked my a mob.
She said she was arrested because police thought she was gay, and that they started “slapping and punching” her to force her to confess.
They also found that LGBT+ people were denied the right to healthcare. One transgender man, called Eric, was beaten up by a gang who thought he was a lesbian. When he went to the hospital, nurses refused to treat him.
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The report found that the government’s refusal to repeal anti-gay laws means that Malawi is a punitive legal environment for the LGBT+ community.
Their report recommends that same-sex consensual activity should be decriminalised in order to ensure that members of the LGBT+ community are better protected.
Malawi has repeatedly come under fire from human rights groups for its treatment of LGBT+ people.
In 2012, the government in Malawi confirmed that they would no longer arrest people for same-sex sexual activity.
However, in 2016, a senior judge instructed police to continue enforcing the law while the government’s decision is “reviewed.”
At the time, the Minister for Justice, Samuel Tembenu committed to reviewing the country’s anti-gay laws. However, this has not yet happened.
In 2015, Malawi’s Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations law came into force, which banned same-sex unions. The same law also stipulated that a person’s gender is assigned at birth and cannot be changed.