All across the world, outdated laws as well as some newer laws are continually used to unfairly target poor and marginalised people because of who they are, rather than what they have done. In parallel, there is an increase in the use of criminal law to suppress activism and quell dissent. This often has a devastating impact on those who are already vulnerable. 

In effect, States routinely use the justice system against people for reasons that have a little to do with citizen safety, but rather to protect the inherited boundaries of power, wealth, and privilege. This abuse of power has a profound human rights cost, manifesting in discrimination, use of lethal force, torture, excessive imprisonment and inhumane conditions of detention.

There is a clear and urgent need to decriminalise laws that treat poverty, status, or activism, as a crime.

The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.

All across the world, outdated laws as well as some newer laws are continually used to unfairly target poor and marginalised people because of who they are, rather than what they have done. In parallel, there is an increase in the use of criminal law to suppress activism and quell dissent. This often has a devastating impact on those who are already vulnerable. 

In effect, States routinely use the justice system against people for reasons that have a little to do with citizen safety, but rather to protect the inherited boundaries of power, wealth, and privilege. This abuse of power has a profound human rights cost, manifesting in discrimination, use of lethal force, torture, excessive imprisonment and inhumane conditions of detention.

There is a clear and urgent need to decriminalise laws that treat poverty, status, or activism, as a crime.

The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.

themed collections

Over the years, campaign partners have worked collaboratively on specific areas and approaches, such as vagrancy and nuisance-related laws, homelessness, and strategic litigation, compiling collections of resources and strategies that have led to successful law reform. 

recent updates

In the WCBU article ‘Is poverty criminalized in Peoria? A lawyer provides her take‘, Alexus McNally, a researcher from campaign partner, The International Legal Foundation, speaks about the work of...
Posted: 31 January, 2023
South Africa is poised to become the first African country to decriminalise sex work following the publication of an amendment to the country’s criminal law for public comment. South Africa’s...
Posted: 31 January, 2023
One of the key outcomes of the Stellenbosch Convening, was the adoption by consensus of the Cape Declaration by participants of the Campaign’s Annual Convening in Stellenbosch, South Africa in...
Posted: 28 January, 2023
Today, five justices of the Constitutional Court of Uganda (Frederick Egonda-Ntende, Elizabeth Musoke, Christopher Madrama Izama, Monica K Mugenyi, and Christopher Gashirabake JJCC) in a unanimous decision, declared as unconstitutional...
Posted: 17 January, 2023
South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Justice, Hon John Jeffery talks to SABC News in South Africa about criminal law and incarceration on the African continent, and more specifically South Africa....
Posted: 17 January, 2023
On the 19 November 2022, francophone partners hosted a side-event, ‘Decriminalisation of poverty, status and activism: what role for the OIF?’, at the 18th Summit of the Organisation de la...
Posted: 15 December, 2022
In the WCBU article ‘Is poverty criminalized in Peoria? A lawyer provides her take‘, Alexus McNally, a researcher from campaign partner, The International Legal Foundation, speaks about the work of...
Posted: 31 January, 2023
South Africa is poised to become the first African country to decriminalise sex work following the publication of an amendment to the country’s criminal law for public comment. South Africa’s...
Posted: 31 January, 2023
One of the key outcomes of the Stellenbosch Convening, was the adoption by consensus of the Cape Declaration by participants of the Campaign’s Annual Convening in Stellenbosch, South Africa in...
Posted: 28 January, 2023

latest resources

Below is a summarised version of the Cape Declaration that the participants of the convening of the Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status, drafted in ...
Year: 2023
The participants of the convening of the Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status, held in Stellenbosch, South Africa between 27 and 29 September 2022 gathered ...
Year: 2023
Francophone members of the Campaign and other organisations kickstarted ther advocacy efforts with the Organisation de la Francophonie, with the launching of the Djerba Declaration ...
Year: 2022
Campaign partner, National Homelessness Law Center, collates helpful resources for combatting communities’ growing habit of criminalizing homelessness.
Year: 2022

the stories

Stories gathered by campaign members and other organisations help expose the havoc that the use and abuse of these laws wreak on the lives of the already vulnerable. The campaign uses these stories to communicate to various stakeholders and advocate for systemic change.

All over the world, criminal justice systems misuse overly broad and discriminatory laws that are rooted in the age of empire to criminalize people  for who they are rather than for what they have done and quell dissent. The ‘Residue & Ruin’ photo exhibition, curated by Luvuyo Equiano Nwayose for the Campaign, highlights the impact these laws have on those who fall victim to their abuse.

All over the world, criminal justice systems misuse overly broad and discriminatory laws that are rooted in the age of empire to criminalize people  for who they are rather than for what they have done and quell dissent. The ‘Residue & Ruin’ photo exhibition, curated by Luvuyo Equiano Nwayose for the Campaign, highlights the impact these laws have on those who fall victim to their abuse.

campaign members

Our coalition members are organisations from across the world, working on improving criminal justice systems to ensure that human rights for respected for all. They work collaboratively through legal reform, litigation, advocacy, policy, capacity building and research to make change happen.

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The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.

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