Across the world, outdated laws as well as some newer laws are continually used to unfairly target poor and marginalised people because of who they are, rather than what they have done.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 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, inhumane conditions of detention and social, political and economic exclusion.

There is a clear and urgent need to decriminalise laws that treat poverty, status, or activism, as a crime.
The Global Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws, reform of policies and change in practices, that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.

Across the world, outdated laws as well as some newer laws are continually used to unfairly target poor and marginalised people because of who they are, rather than what they have done.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 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, inhumane conditions of detention and social, political and economic exclusion.

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

The Global Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws, reform of policies and change in practices, 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

SALC: Freedom of expression, a fundamental right crucial for open dialogue, critical thinking, and societal progress, is under threat in Africa due to outdated and ambiguous legal frameworks. Citizens, journalists,...
Posted: 12 June, 2024
SALC: In the last year, we have seen Parliaments in Africa enact laws that contradict court rulings in Namibia and Kenya. In Uganda, and Ghana, new laws go as far as to criminalising anyone who...
Posted: 12 June, 2024
ICwS & ICJ: On 5 and 6 June 2024, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) and its partners, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)(Opens in new window) and the Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec)(Opens in...
Posted: 12 June, 2024
SALC: Over the past five years, the highest courts in Namibia and Botswana have made significant decisions in favour of minority groups’ human rights through favourable judgements and court orders....
Posted: 10 June, 2024
Amnesty International: Reacting to news that Moldova’s parliament has passed amendments to the country’s Criminal Code which redefine “high treason,” Veaceslav Tofan, Executive Director of Amnesty International Moldova, said: “The...
Posted: 10 June, 2024
ICJ-Kenya: Nakuru, Kenya – Since time immemorial, Kenya’s culturally rich communities proudly championed and practiced their own forms of justice that was tethered in basic mechanisms and principles of reconciliation...
Posted: 10 June, 2024
SALC: Freedom of expression, a fundamental right crucial for open dialogue, critical thinking, and societal progress, is under threat in Africa due to outdated and ambiguous legal frameworks. Citizens, journalists,...
Posted: 12 June, 2024
SALC: In the last year, we have seen Parliaments in Africa enact laws that contradict court rulings in Namibia and Kenya. In Uganda, and Ghana, new laws go as far as to criminalising anyone who...
Posted: 12 June, 2024
ICwS & ICJ: On 5 and 6 June 2024, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) and its partners, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)(Opens in new window) and the Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec)(Opens in...
Posted: 12 June, 2024

latest resources

Prison Insider publishes its country profile on prisons in South Africa. This publication is the result of work carried out in collaboration with various people and organizations from civil society. ...
Year: 2024
Collecting and publishing statistics about the use and practice of imprisonment is a crucial tool for governments to assess the effectiveness of criminal justice policies. Accurate and updated statistics also ...
Year: 2024
The National Women’s Justice Coalition (NWJC) champions and promotes best practice for working with women in contact with the criminal justice system. This library catalogues a wide range of resources that consolidate ...
Year: 2024
This report presents the findings of an empirical investigation into criminalization of poverty in Haiti. The research, conducted by the Center for research and exchange on security and justice (CRESEJ) ...
Year: 2024

upcoming events

25 June, 2024
Across the world persons experiencing homelessness or poverty are penalised for performing life-sustaining activities such as sleeping, eating, sitting and...
1 December, 2024
to 4 December, 2024
The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria and the Global Law Enforcement and Public Health Association are...

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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