DECRIMINALISATION OF VAGRANCY LAWS & PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF RIGHTS OF SEX WORKERS


The Decriminalization of vagrancy offences and promotion and protection of the rights of sex workers has been implemented by CHREAA since 2014 with funding from the Open Society Foundations (OSF), Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC).

The goal of the project is to enhance the protection of the rights of marginalized communities and vulnerable groups and to contribute towards the decriminalization/declassification of minor nuisance-related offences in Malawi and the region.

Despite the Mayeso Gwanda case where section 184(1) (c) of the Penal Code of which was declared rogue and vagabond unconstitutional, there are continued arrests of marginalized groups during sweeping exercises. Most of the victims of sweeping exercises are charged with Idle and Disorderly and Covid-19-related rules and regulations.

CHREAA/SALC is challenging the Police sweeping exercises in the cases of The State v Officer In-charge, Kasungu Police Station and Inspector General of Police Ex-parte, Henry Banda and 2 Others (Judicial Review Case No.28 of 2018 at Zomba District Registry). The applicants are challenging the Police’s practice of conducting mass arrests (sweeping exercises) as one way of crime prevention. The case is challenging the constitutionality of section 184(1) (b) of the Penal Code which provides that “every suspected person or reputed thief who has no visible means of subsistence and cannot give a good account of himself” shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond

Although CHREAA is currently challenging Police powers in conducting sweeping exercises, CHREAA is also lobbying the Malawi Law Commission and members of Parliament for possible law reform on all laws under nuisance-related offences; common nuisances (s168); gaming and betting offences (s169-177); idle and disorderly persons (s180); conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace (s181); use of insulting language (s182); nuisances by drunken persons (s183); and rogues and vagabonds (s184); so that they align with the Constitution.