Reducing Police Violence against Sex Workers in Malawi

Final project
Year of publication:
Gender Based Violence
Number of pages:
Supervisors: Randi W. Stebbins


This project focuses on the reduction of police violence against female sex workers in Malawi. In Malawi, laws relating to issues of sex work are not very clear and this development results in police unlawfully arresting sex workers. These unlawful arrests put female sex workers in danger of suffering different forms of violence committed by the police. However, the constitution of Malawi guarantees respect, protection, and fulfillment of all human rights for its citizens. On the other hand, some laws are unjust and hostile towards vulnerable groups such as sex workers, who often survive at the mercy of the police. Rogue and vagabond, and idle and disorderly laws found in Sections 180 to 184 of the Penal Code are the kinds of laws which are used improperly to prosecute sex workers. Law enforcement intentionally uses these law to harass, threaten, arrest, beat, and sexually coerce female sex workers who are underprivileged and unable to access any legal representation. There are concerns over the police’s unprofessional conduct toward sex workers. In the worst scenarios, police officers sexually abuse sex workers in exchange for release. This unethical behaviour by police officers is likely to continue if there is no proper action to halt or curtail the malpractice. Lack of knowledge on gender, human rights and legal issues puts sex workers in Malawi at high risk of having their rights violated. Therefore, the project aims to bring together police officers, sex workers, and other concerned stakeholders to reduce police violence against sex workers. The project plans to extensively use the radio to raise community awareness about sex-worker abuse and respecting their rights. The project’s main goal is to reduce violence perpetrated by the police against sex workers. The project will use a human rights based approach, and the following strategies: training police officers on best practices regarding sex workers, training health care personnel on creating a positive environment for sex workers when they seek medical assistance, and training sex workers on how best to conduct themselves when they are arrested. In addition, the project will mobilize Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in combating human rights violations; strengthening already existing sex workers support programs and developing mass media awareness. The project will also complement the Malawi Institute of Journalism – MIJ FM radio programs that talk about human rights and gender equality issues.