Most followers of this blog are probably aware of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a law written by the British government of colonial India and then exported to their other colonies. It bans “sodomy”, which back in the day meant any sex other than vaginal, and even banned oral sex between straight couples in the past. In Malawi, it is most famous as the legal pretext for the sentencing of a homosexual* couple to hard labor in 2010; the two were later pardoned.
This awful law has evidently been overturned, according to a Times of India article from this morning. If true this is excellent news and a big advance for human rights in the country.
I have been very impressed with the apparent change in attitudes towards homosexuality here this year. There are regular columns in the newspapers exploring the challenges facing gays and lesbians, and rarely written in a judging or admonishing tone. Most of the people I have met this year also have also expressed fairly tolerant attitudes towards homosexuals, although I suspect that to some extent they are bullshitting me because I am always the mzungu and frequently in charge as well. I’m looking forward to the results of research by Tara McKay and kim dionne , in the field this summer, that measures attitudes toward homosexuality in a systematic and representative way – and I’m optimistic that the situation is better than people watching Malawi from the outside think.
Hat tip on the Times of India story: Nancy Marker
*The description of the couple as homosexual is sometimes contested because Tiwonge Chimbalanga was a biological male transsexual who was living as a woman.