Malawian Court sets new date for disorderly conduct case

Malawi: The High Court sitting in Blantyre yesterday adjourned to June 6 2024 the case in which people who were begging in the city are challenging the constitutionality of Section 180(b) of the Penal Code, which criminalises begging.

The case involves 12 applicants who were arrested on April 11 2017 at diverse places in Blantyre City and were charged and convicted of the offence of idle and disorderly conduct, which is stipulated in Section 189(b).

However, they are now challenging the constitutionality of the offence, arguing that it violates their constitutional right to dignity, economic activity and equality.

According to some human rights defenders, arresting people using the law promotes discrimination and criminalises poverty.

But the case failed to proceed on Thursday after it was noted that the Attorney General had failed to file requisite documents.

Lawyer for the complainants, who also works under Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), Chikondi Chijozi, said the complainants—who were nabbed in 2017 for begging in the streets—are asking the court to decriminalise the law.

According to Chijozi, the law does not differentiate aggressive begging from situations where a person is kindly asking for help.

She added that, essentially, if people are asking for help, it means they are finding a way of earning a living.

“We were supposed to start the case but the Attorney General is yet to file his response, hence the court giving us another date to give him more time,” Chijozi said.

In 2022, the High Court sitting in Zomba ordered Parliament to review such “petty offences” within 48 months.

The complaints are being supported by SALC and the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advise and Assistance.

Screenshot 2024-04-09 at 10.34.29
9 April, 2024
Type of Update:
In the Courts
In the News
Updates from our Partners
Human Rights
Petty Offences
Use of Public Spaces
Campaign Partners:
Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance
Southern Africa Litigation Centre

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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