Globally, there has been an increase in the implementation of laws which limit the behaviour, actions and movements of persons in public spaces. This greatly impedes the lives and livelihoods of those living in poverty and further perpetuates discrimination of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. In Malawi, Penal Code offences such as being an idle and disorderly person and being a rogue and vagabond are sometimes used indiscriminately to arrest persons, contributing to overcrowding in police cells and placing a strain on resources in the criminal justice system. These laws tend to give law enforcement officials a wide discretion in application, which increases the vulnerability of persons living in poverty to violence and harassment.
CHREAA and SALC’s latest report No Justice for the Poor: A preliminary study of the Law and Practice Relating to Arrests for Nuisance-Related Offences in Blantyre, Malawi, discusses these outdated and vague provisions, and how the application of them constitutes an abuse of the rights of those arrested on such charges
The Report is divided into three sections. The first provides a historical background to idle and disorderly and rogue and vagabond provisions in the Malawi Penal Code and queries the relevance and constitutionality of some of these provisions. The purpose of the research in section 2 was to assess arrest practices relating to nuisance-related offences. The third section provides an analysis of how the arrests are made and how those practices violate constitutional rights. The Report concludes with recommendations in relation to the relevance and application of vagrancy laws in Malawi.
Download the full report here.
Chapter by chapter
A Short History of English Vagrancy Laws
The Persistence of Colonial Vagrancy Laws in Southern Africa
Vagrancy Laws in Malawi
Implementation of Vagrancy Laws in Blantyre Malawi
Law and Practice Relating to the Arrest of Children
Use of Vagrancy Laws Against Sex Workers
Vagrancy Laws and Touts
Arrest and Detention
Alternatives to Arrest
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