Is Malawi bowing down to donors' pressure on gay rights?

Malawi is reportedly set to review local laws that persecute homosexuality amid announcements from key donors that they would consider recipient countries’ treatment of gays and lesbians in aid allocation decisions.

Malawi’s justice minister, Ephraim Chiume, has announced that his government will review parts of Malawi’s penal code that concerns “indecent practices and unnatural acts,” says the U.K.-based The Guardian, citing an African news website.

“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,” Chiume said, as quoted by Africa Review.

Malawi was criticized by members of the international community last year when it jailed two men who took part in the first gay marriage in the country.

The announcement of the review follows the release of a new directive from U.S. President Barack Obama to use all tools of American diplomacy and U.S. foreign aid to promote and protect the rights of gay people overseas.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has earlier announced that his government is prepared to impose aid sanctions on recipient countries that would not reform their policies concerning homosexuality.

The United States and the United Kingdom are two of Malawi’s biggest donors. The United States gives the country some $200 million annually, primarily for health care, while the United Kingdom’s program is worth 19 million pounds ($29.6 million). The United Kingdom has already suspended parts of its program in Malawi due to concerns over misspending and bad governance.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.