Malawi backs out of LGBT referendum

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A spokesperson for the government rebuked the rumour that the country may move to decriminalise homosexuality.

A spokesperson from the Malawian Government quashed the notion that the country has plans to hold a referendum to discuss decriminalising homosexuality and legalising same-sex marriage.

Rumour of a possible referendum began a few days ago, when the President Peter Mutharika hinted that change may be coming to the country.

“On the issue of gay marriages, again I have said in our [Democratic Progressive Party] manifesto that we will leave that to the people,” Mutharika told the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

Many local news stations interpreted as a step forward for LGBT rights in the country, as they believe that a large number of the population are behind legalising homosexuality and welcoming same-sex marriage.

However, a State House spokesperson has since clarified the president’s comments – telling the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation that leader been expressing his own personal opinion on the subject.

The State House spokesperson highlighted that the President of Malawi cannot make laws and cannot bypass the parliament or the cabinet to hold a referendum – even if he wanted to.

The spokesperson said that president simply meant that “he wanted the people of Malawi to decide whether they wanted a referendum” or not.

Although it is unclear which way the voters would go, Oliver Kasin recently wrote for PinkNews about his experiences of coming out in Malawi – and how given the chance, he believes that the Malawian people may indeed welcome the idea of decriminalisation.

In April, Malawi’s “Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law” came into effect, impacting LGBT Malawians severely.

The law – signed by President Mutharika – strengthens definitions of marriage and co-habiting relationships as being between a man and a woman. and prevents any other form of relationship from gaining legal recognition.