Malawi: New marriage law further criminalizes LGBT relationships and identities, group says

A new law in Malawi that raises the minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18 is great for women and girls, but terrible for the country’s LGBT community. The law defines all marriages, unions and cohabitation arrangements as being between a man and a woman -- and excludes LGBT people from legal protections.

Known as the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law, the measure defines a person’s sex or gender as the one assigned at birth, legally rejecting the gender identity of transgender and intersex persons. The UN, meanwhile, has praised the bill, noting that Malawi ranks #8 among countries with high rates of child marriage.

But while the U.N. and women's rights groups have spoken in favor of Malawi’s law, the global community has not been forceful enough in rebuking its anti-LGBT provisions, said Jessica Stern, executive director of the IGLHRC.

“It’s appalling that a law that attempts to address a serious human rights abuse like child and forced marriage would then also target Malawians for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Stern said. “It’s unacceptable to try to prevent one existing wrong and in the process create another abuse in the form of legal discrimination against LGBT [and intersex] individuals.”   Read More