Two men facing charges of having gay sex in Malawi will not be prosecuted after all as the government confirms that the country’s gay sex ban remains suspended.
The 19-year-old student and 37-year-old man were arrested in one of the men’s home by police in the capital Lilongwe earlier this month.
On Sunday, Justice MInister Samuel Tembenu ordered their release and said the government had “imposed a moratorium” on the arrest of Malawians for having gay sex, which carries a penalty of 14 years in prison.
According to the Nyasa Times, Tembenu explained that the country had to adhere to “universally accepted human rights standards.”
He also affirmed a commitment to review the colonial era ban on sex “against the order of nature” in “consultation with the people of Malawi.”
Last year, the Malawian government told a UN human rights committee it would not enforce the anti-gay law.
The release of the two men is unlikely to be welcomed by religious and traditional leaders. Both Christian and Muslim clerics in Malawi have been vocal in their condemnation of homosexuality in the past.
In April, the nation effectively outlawed same-sex marriage through the adoption of the new Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Law which defines marriage as only being possible between people of the opposite sex.