Malawi’s President, Joyce Banda has said she wants her country to overturn its ban on homosexual acts – the first African country to do so since 1994.
Two Malawian men were sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 after saying they were getting married.
Several Western leaders have recently said they would cut aid to countries which did not recognise gay rights.
Mrs Banda, who came to power in April on the death of her predecessor, said in her first state of the nation address on Friday: “Indecency and unnatural acts laws shall be repealed.” She described the measure as a matter of urgency.
She further said her government wanted to normalise relations with “our traditional development partners who were uncomfortable with our bad laws”.
But repealing a law requires a parliamentary vote and, although Banda’s party commands a majority, it is unclear how much support the move would have in this socially conservative nation.
Malawi was widely condemned for the conviction and 14-year prison sentences given in 2010 to two men who were arrested after celebrating their engagement and were charged with unnatural acts and gross indecency.
The former president, Bingu wa Mutharika had pardoned the couple on “humanitarian grounds only”, while claiming they had “committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws”.
The Senate had last year taken a strong stand against same sex marriage in Nigeria.
Debate over same sex marriage is growing across the world. While some countries have legalised it, others are considering adopting it and few conservatives have taken similar strong stands against it.
“We as a country need to act very fast for this trend not to find its way into our country,” Domingo Obende, had said while moving the motion against same sex marriage last September.
“Same sex marriage cannot be allowed on moral and religious grounds. The Muslim religion forbids it. Christianity forbids it and the African traditional religion forbids it. It should not be allowed because it will lead to a breakdown of the society,” Mr Obende said.
The United States’ State Department and 16 international human rights groups had strongly condemned the bill, calling it a violation of the freedoms of expression, association and assembly guaranteed by international law as well as by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and a barrier to the struggle against the spread of AIDS.