Malawi: President Joyce Banda U-turns on gay rights

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Malawi’s President Joyce Banda believes her country isn’t ready to repeal a law which outlaws homosexuality, despite her pledge after taking office to work to overturn the legislation.

President Banda, Africa’s second female head of state, told the Associated Press in an interview at the end of last week that the Malawian public does not support overturning the law.

Despite her own hopes of reform, “anyone who has listened to the debate in Malawi realises that Malawians are not ready to deal with that right now,” Mrs Banda said.

She urged the international community to allow “each country to have that debate freely without the pressure of being pushed.”

Mrs Banda also acknowledged her disappointment after Madonna scaled back charity efforts, scrapping a planned fifteen-million dollar academy for girls. She called that “a very painful matter.”

In 2010, Malawi jailed two gay men after they staged a wedding.

Following global outrage by human rights groups, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were subsequently released after the country’s former president, Bingu Wa Mutharika, issued a formal pardon.

Mr Mutharika died in April of this year after suffering a heart attack at the age of 78.