Rights group fights Malawi’s anti-gay laws

A Malawi high court on Monday began hearing a petition by a leading rights group seeking to obtain the review of jail sentences of three gays and to overturn laws that criminalise homosexuality.

"We want the court to declare the laws that criminalise homosexuality in Malawi unconstitutional," Gift Trapence, director of a rights group, the Centre for Development of People (Cedep), said.

"We are also seeking a review of sentences passed by the courts to three men who are serving long jail terms for homosexual acts," said Trapence.

In 2011, a magistrate court sentenced Amon Champyuni, Mathew Bello and Mussa Chiwisi to between six years and 12 years in jail with hard labour for unnatural acts and buggery offences.

"As long as same-sex relationships are consensual and done in private, no one has business to get bothered," said Trapence, a leading activist for minority rights.

The independent Malawi Law Society, which represents over 300 lawyers in the country, are backing the group in its legal tussle, he said.

Hearing was adjourned to March 21.

Hard labour for sodomy
The move by the Cedep comes five years after two other men were sentenced to 14 years of hard labour for sodomy.

The couple was released amid an international outcry.

Under the country's laws, men face up to 14 years in jail and women a maximum of five years for homosexual offences. – Sapa-AFP

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Sapa Afp
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