Scores of sex workers ululated and handclapped at Zomba High Court after a judge quashed a lower court conviction of 19 prostitutes and ordered the state to return their K7000 each fine.
Dedza fourth grade magistrate convicted and sentenced the prostitutes on February 24 on charges of living on earnings of prostitution.
Police had no evidence to prove the charge against them.
They did not have legal representation during the initial hearing of the case and pleaded guilty but found legal representation during the appeal at the High Court in Zomba when Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) and Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) brought a reveiew application.
The case was argued before Judge Zione Ntaba on July 28.
The sex workers were represented by Fostino Maere.
Judge Ntaba said the magistrate erred in trying the women through unanimous plea.
“The lack of jurisdiction is so glaring annd cannot be corrected by the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Code. A court of fourth grade cannot try a case whose maximum sentence is 24 months,” Ntaba said.
Judge Ntaba said hotels, inns, rest houses and motels are not meant for men only but for both men and women.
“The country should have discussions on this issue,” said Ntaba.
She also wondered why the women prostitutes were arrested leaving out the male clients, saying it takes two to tango.
Judge Ntaba said the law does not criminalise against women prostitutes only.
She then quashed the convictions and sentencing and ordered the State to compensate the sex workers.
Dedza sex workers chairperson Alice Matambo said they were “very happy” with the judgement.
Matambo commended Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (Chrea) and Southern Africa Litigation Centre for helping them to take the matter to High Court for judicial review.
Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :