Malawi’s President Joyce Banda Boldly Stands Up for Gay Rights

Joyce Banda, who was recently sworn in as Malawi's first-ever female president, has said that she plans to repeal her country's laws against homosexuality in her first state of the union address, a bold move, notes the Atlantic Wire's Connor Simpson, since homosexuality has been criminalized in 37 African countries and Malawi will host an African Union summit in July.

Malawi has had a checkered history with gay rights. Banda's predecessor, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, had in 2010 pardoned two men who'd been sentenced to fourteen years in prison for announcing their plans to marry, but he did so only after facing criticism from international human rights groups. Though he released the men on "humanitarian grounds only," Mutharika made clear that he believed they "committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws." Banda has signalled that Malawi might be ready to set an example for greater acceptance of homosexuality in Africa and, anyway, Malawians didn't really like Mutharika too much, at least if their rousing support for Banda just hours after Mutharika's sudden death was any indication.

Malawi's First Female President Is Down with Gay Rights [Atlantic Wire]