Human rights organisations in the country have commended the High Court in Zomba for freeing 19 sex workers who were convicted and fined by Dedza fourth grade magistrate court in February this year for making a living through prostitution.
According to a statement released by the civil society organisations (CSOs), what Dedza fourth magistrate court and the police did was unconstitutional since there is no law in the constitution that stipulates that earning a living through sex work is illegal.
“The judgement of Justice Zione Ntaba of high court noted it was clear that the arrests of these sex workers were carried out to embarrass and harass them as section 146 of the penal code does not criminalise sex work but seeks to protect sex workers from those who exploit them,” say the CSOs in the statement
The organisations also argue that the ruling shows the courts’ commitment to protect sex workers in Malawi who face discrimination and are frequently charged with living on the earnings of prostitution or rogue and vagabond.
“The decision demonstrates a strong commitment of courts to enforce and uphold the enjoyment of human rights by various individuals, with Justice Ntaba observing that the proceedings in the lower court were procedurally irregular, unfair and an affront to justice and unconstitutional as their arrest violated the women’s rights to liberty,” reads part of the statement.
The human rights organisations added that there is need for capacity building for the lower courts to understand their jurisdiction and be able to preside over cases with human rights lenses.
The human rights non-governmental organisations that signed the statement include Southern Africa Litigation Centre, (SALC), Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Malawi Sex Workers Alliance (MASWA), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Lawyers Forum for Human Rights and The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA).