Serious concerns raised over anti-LGBT discriminatory provisions in the new Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law

17 April 2014

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has raised serious concerns over the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law [pdf] signed by the country’s President Peter Mutharika on 15 April 2015. According to IGLHRC’s pres release, this legilation creates new forms of legal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.  While the law raises the minimum marriage age to 18—a positive move to combat child marriage—it also promotes a policy of exclusion against LGBTI Malawians that would likely translate into discrimination in education, housing, jobs and elsewhere.

 The law:

  • defines sex or gender as the sex assigned to a person at birth, denying equal rights to form a family to transgender, intersex and other individuals whose gender identity does not align that that assigned at birth;
  • defines marriages, unions, cohabitation or “customary” marriages as being between a man and a woman, ignoring the reality of same-sex relationships—and non-romantic supportive unions—and codifying the state’s rejection of all same-sex relationships, whether married or not;
  • validates the criminalisation of so-called “unnatural offenses” (a term often used to criminalize same-sex consensual relations between adults) by including a conviction on this offense as acceptable evidence of a marriage breakdown;
  • equates  rape and “unnatural offenses” as similar grounds for marriage breakdown, thus perpetuating the wrongful idea that consensual same-sex relations either do not exist or are as damaging as sexual assault.

Read full press release by IGLHRC:

It must be noted that, unlike what has been reported by some publications (see this story by the International Business Times) the new law does not seem to introduce any additional criminal penalties for same-sex sexual relationships between consenting adults, but only further validates the already existing criminalisation of so-called “unnatural offenses” in the country. 


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