A government minister in Malawi has said that gays must be more open – despite the fact they can be imprisoned for 14 years.

Speaking after a police arrested 21-year-old Peter Sawali for putting up gay rights posters in Blantyre, deputy information minister Kingsley Namakhwa urged other gay people to come out.

He told Afrique en Ligne: “As far as the Malawi government is concerned we only have two gays in Malawi – Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

“If there are others, let them come out in the open.”

But he reiterated that any who did come would be arrested, in line with Malawi’s laws.

Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have become the faces of gay equality in the African country after they were arrested for holding a traditional wedding ceremony in December.

They have twice been denied bail and are pleading not guilty to charges of gross indecency.

Their case is expected to resume soon and their lawyers are calling for a review of Malawi’s homosexuality laws, saying they violate the country’s constitution.

Sawali avoided jail for putting up the posters and is serving 60 days of community service.

Police are investigating how he obtained the posters. They believe he and other gay rights activists in Malawi may be sponsored by international organisations.