Malawi has back-tracked on its decision to suspend its anti-gay laws after churches and powerful conservative lobby groups fiercely criticised the move.

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara appeared to instruct police to halt the arrest of those alleged of breaking the country’s anti-homosexuality penal code.

According to Reuters, Mr Kasambara, who is also the Attorney General, said he wanted to have a debate on the issue before parliament decided whether to keep the laws or not.

Human Rights Watch had called Malawi’s decision courageous. Amnesty International hailed it as a historic step in the fight against discrimination.

However, the Independent reported that Mr Kasambara said on Thursday that he never urged for the policy to be suspended and that laws carrying up to 14 years in prison for committing homosexual acts were still being enforced.

“There was no such announcement and there was no discussion on same-sex marriage,” he told country’s Daily Times newspaper.