Malawi to review homosexuality law

image captionLast year, a gay couple were given a 14-year jail term before being pardoned

Malawi will review a series of controversial laws, including a ban on homosexual acts, Justice Minister Ephraim Chiume has said.

Mr Chiume said the review was in response to "public opinion".

Western governments criticised Malawi last year for jailing a gay couple on sodomy charges.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would use foreign aid to encourage countries to decriminalise homosexuality.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron expressed a similar view in October, saying that gay rights were a human right.

Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries, where they are often viewed as un-Christian and un-Islamic.

Mr Chiume said provisions of the penal code concerning "indecent practices and unnatural acts" would be reviewed.

"In view of the sentiments from the general public and in response to public opinion regarding certain laws, the government wishes to announce to the Malawi nation that it is submitting the relevant laws and provisions of laws to the Law Commission for review," he said.

Last year, a gay couple were sentenced to 14 years in prison for sodomy, after they held an engagement ceremony in the city of Blantyre.

During their trial, President Bingu wa Mutharika called homosexuality "evil and very bad before the eyes of God". He later pardoned them following international condemnation of the sentence.

According to Africa Review, other laws which will be reviewed include one which allows the information minister to ban newspapers deemed not to be serving the interest of Malawians, as well as a law preventing people taking legal action against the government and public officials.

The UK and other donors have already cut aid to Malawi, amid criticism of its economic policies and its attitude to the opposition and journalists.

In April, the UK and Malawi expelled each other's diplomatic envoys after Wikileaks published a cable citing the British High Commissioner accusing President Mutharika of "not tolerating criticism".

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