For now, Malawi is abiding by the principle that fundamental human rights, including the human rights of LGBTI people, should not be jeopardized by putting them to a vote in a referendum.
Janet Banda, Malawi’s solicitor general, last month said the government will conduct unspecified “public inquiries,” not a referendum, into whether the country’s anti-homosexuality laws should be repealed.
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) will be in charge of the exploration of public opinion on the subject, Banda said.
President Peter Mutharika has stated that he “wants gay rights protected” but has also proposed a referendum on them.
Since 2012, Malawi has observed a moratorium on enforcement of its anti-LGBTI law, which has been challenged in court as unconstitutional and contrary to Malawi’s commitments to uphold international standards for human rights. The law against same-sex intimacy, if enforced, would provide for prison sentences of up to 14 years for men and up to five years for women.