The postponement of the trial against two Zambian men charged with same-sex sexual conduct whilst they continue to languish in prison is compounding their suffering, Amnesty International said.

“These men should not be facing the courts in the first place. Postponing the trial condemns these men to even more time in prison simply because of outrageous charges against them based on their perceived sexual orientation,” said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s Zambia researcher.

The trial, which was due to start yesterday, was deferred as the presiding magistrate, Mr John Mbudzi, had to attend an urgent family matter. No new date has been confirmed yet.

Amnesty International has lauded Malawi for suspending laws against same-sex relationships describing the move as a step in the right direction.

“Amnesty International welcomes Minister (Ralph) Kasambara’s statement and hopes it serves as the first step toward ending discrimination and persecution based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity in Malawi,” said Noel Kututwa, the rights group’s director for southern Africa.

Homosexuality is banned in Malawi – as it is in 36 other African states – and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years, but Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara said he wanted debate on the issue before parliament decided whether to keep the laws or not.

Chiume making the announcing in Lilongwe

Malawi’s repressive laws, which resulted into a crippling donor aid freeze and saw unprecedented demonstrations in July and left 20 people dead, have formally been referred to the Law Commission for review.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Chiume made the disclosure at a news conference in Lilongwe. Flanked by leader of the House George Chaponda, he said that this in response to public opinion and concerns raised over the laws.

“In view of the sentiments from the general public regarding certain laws and provisions of certain laws passed by the National Assembly, we are submitting the relevant laws and provisions of laws to the Law
Commission for review,” said Chiume.