Malawi Health Minister: No plans to drop anti-gay laws

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Malawi will not change its laws against homosexuality, the country’s Health Minister has said.

Jean Kalilani made the remarks last week as the Malawi Government applied for a grant of around £257.000 from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Malawi wants to use the money for HIV prevention among the country’s gay population.

However, Ms Kalilani stressed that the decision did not amount to a legal change in status for gay people.

“There will be no change in laws on homosexuality”, Ms Kalilani said, reports the Nyasa Times.

“It is still a crime to anyone engaging in the practice.”

Campaigners say that Malawi’s anti-gay laws hamper the country’s HIV prevention efforts.

Gift Trapence, from the Center for the Development of People (CEDEP), said: “It is difficult to offer HIV and AIDS services to homosexuals when there are sodomy laws on the other hand.

“The same government is crimalising same-sex relationships and the same government wants to help them. This does not make sense.”

In May 2012, President Joyce Banda initially pledged to repeal the laws, but later declared that Malawi was “not ready” to decriminalise homosexuality.

Enforcement of anti-gay laws was temporarily halted in November 2012, when then-Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara directed arrests to stop, pending a debate in Parliament.

However, after a fierce reaction from churches and lobbying groups, enforcement of the laws was reinstated a few days later.

Same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Malawi with custodial sentences of up to 14 years imprisonment.

Peter Mutharika replaced Joyce Banada as President of Malawi in May 2014.