Global LGBT Briefs: Up in Africa, down in Caucasus

Malawi's Banda makes historic pledge, while Amnesty takes on anti-gay animus in three countries


Malawi President Stands Up for Gay Rights

President Joyce Banda of Malawi, who rose from vice president to her country’s top spot in April following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, has pledged to eliminate the nation’s anti-gay laws, The Guardian reports.

Banda was making her first state of the nation address, May 18, when she said, ”Indecency and unnatural acts laws shall be repealed.”

The president needs Parliamentary support to make such a move, though her party is in the ruling majority.

Undule Mwakasungula, executive director of Malawi’s Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, welcomed the news, telling The Guardian, ”This is good news for us as we have been advocating for these sodomy laws to be reviewed or repealed as part of all the bad laws. Now that President Joyce Banda has indicated that the sodomy laws will be part of the laws to be repealed, this is very welcome development.”

Amnesty Calls Out South Caucasus

Amnesty International announced May 18 that it is calling on the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – following a string of attacks – to better protect LGBT and intersex residents of those countries.

The incidents cited were a firebomb attack on a bar in Yerevan, Armenia; an Orthodox Christian group confronting a peaceful LGBT march in Tbilisi, Georgia, with little police intervention; and anti-gay comments from Azerbaijani officials.

”The virulent nature of these recent attacks shows the need for public dialogue to tackle homophobia throughout the South Caucasus,” John Dalhuisen said in a statement released by AI. Dalhuisen is the human-rights organization’s Europe and Central Asia director.

An Agence France-Presse story of the Tbilisi confrontation quoted one of the priests – who did not give his name – blocking the May 17 LGBT march. ”How can you promote such a thing in the streets where there are children?” he said. ”It should not be allowed.”

AFP also quoted a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi: ”We believe that a modern democratic society that supports full implementation of universal human rights needs to have a space in that society for people of every sexual orientation. … Members of those communities should be able to express themselves in public in a peaceful way without suffering retribution.”

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.