Malawi's Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara on Monday said that laws criminalising same sex sexual conduct in the country had been suspended pending a decision on whether or not to repeal them.
Kasambara said in a statement that he wanted debate on the issue before parliament decides whether to keep the laws or not.
"The global human rights body, Amnesty International (AI) welcomes Minister Kasambara's statement.
"And hopes it serves as the first step towards ending discrimination and persecution based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity in Malawi," Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International's southern Africa director, said in a statement.
Sections 153 and 156 of Malawi's Penal Code criminalise same sex sexual conduct between men and those convicted face up to 14 years imprisonment, with or without corporal punishment.
Section 137A of Malawi's Penal Code criminalises "indecent practices between females" with anyone found guilty liable to a prison term of five years, according to AI.
"We urge the government not to lose momentum on this basic human rights issue and to ensure the full repeal of these discriminatory and hate-filled laws," Kututwa said.
In 2010, two persons were sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in Malawi on charges related to same sex sexual conduct. They were later pardoned following international condemnation.