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Malawi stops enforcing antigay laws

BLANTYRE, Malawi — Going against a trend in Africa, Malawi’s government is moving to suspend laws against homosexuality and has ordered police not to arrest people for same-sex acts until the antigay laws are reviewed by Parliament.

Human Rights Watch called the decision courageous and said it should inspire other countries that criminalize homosexuality.

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Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said at a public debate on minority rights last week that the police have been ordered not to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in homosexuality. Anyone convicted under Malawi’s antigay laws, some of the toughest in the world, can get up to 14 years in jail with hard labor.

In May, President Joyce Banda announced that she wants to repeal Malawi’s laws against homosexual acts. Traditionalists and religious leaders condemned her, saying she was trying to please Western donor nations.

Kasambara said the suspension of arrests was ordered because ‘‘if we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government.’’

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