Malawi has ratified the following documents:
  • African (Banjul) Charter on Human and People's Rights
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
  • Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
  • International Covenant Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The following documents further define the obligations of Malawi:
  • Beijing +5: Further Actions and Initiatives to Implement the Beijing Platform for Action
  • Beijing Platform for Action
  • Cairo Programme of Action
  • UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS) Declaration of Commitment
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The documents listed above require Malawi to protect and promote the following rights:

Right to development
Right to education
Right to equal protection of the law
Right to freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment
Right to highest attainable standard of physical and mental health
Right to housing
Right to just and favorable work conditions
Right to liberty and security of the person
Right to life and survival
Right to marry and found a family
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of age
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of disability (i.e. HIV positive)
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of marital status
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of race and ethnicity
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of sex and gender
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
Right to private and family life
Right to receive and impart information
Right to the benefits of scientific progress

Constitutional Protection of Rights

The Constitution of Malawi can be viewed at

The Constitution of Malawi is an important tool for the protection and promotion of human rights.

The Constitution enables Malawi to translate international agreements into domestic law, and obliges all branches of government to respect and ensure the rights it enunciates.

The Constitution provides for the protection of the following rights, among others. This empowers individuals in making reproductive health decisions, and helps create the economic and social conditions conducive to good sexual and reproductive health.

Right to access health services (art. 30)
Right to an adequate standard of housing (art. 30)
Right to consent to medical or scientific experimentation (art. 19)
Right to consent to entering into marriage (art. 22(4))
Right to development (art. 30)
Right to education (art. 25)
Right to the equal protection of the laws (art. 20)
Right to food (art. 30)
Right to freedom of association (art. 32)
Right to freedom of enterprise (art. 29)
Right to freedom of expression (art. 35)
Right to freedom of movement (art. 39)
Right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (art. 19)
Right to just and favorable work conditions (art. 31)
Right to liberty and security (art. 18)
Right to life (art.16)
Right to marry and found a family (art. 22(3))
Right to privacy (art.21)
Right to non-discrimination on grounds of "other status" (art. 20)
Right to non discrimination on grounds of race (art. 20)
Right to non discrimination on grounds of sex (art. 20)
Right to own private property (art. 28)
Right to seek and obtain redress for violations of rights (art. 15)
Right to work (art. 29)

The Constitution includes other provisions that promote and protect rights relevant for good sexual and reproductive health.

The Constitution specifically protects rights of women which empower them in their economic and social status, and enables them to make health-related decisions. This helps to foster good reproductive health. Among others, the Constitution provides for women's rights to:

  • enter into contracts (art. 24(1)(a)(i))
  • acquire and maintain property (art. 24(1)(a)(ii)), including at the dissolution of marriage (art. 24(1)(b)(i))
  • fair maintenance upon the dissolution of marriage (art. 24(1)(b)(ii))
In addition, women can specifically benefit from the right to equality within the family (art. 22(2)).

The Constitution requires that Malawi:

  • implement policies addressing such social issues as "domestic violence, lack of security, lack of maternity benefits, exploitation and property rights" (art. 13(a)(iii))
  • take necessary measures to ensure women's participation in all spheres of society (art. 13(a)(i))
  • take all necessary measures to help all, but especially women, children and the disabled exercise their right to development (art. 30)
  • discourage marriages under age 15 (art. 22(8))
  • adopt legislation to eliminate practices that discriminate against women (art. 24(2)), such as:
    • sexual abuse, harassment and violence (art. 24(2)(a));
    • discrimination in work, business and public affairs (art. 24(2)(b));
    • deprivation of property, including property obtained by inheritance (art. 24(2)(c)
The Constitution further mandates Malawi to:
  • recognize and fulfill human rights and the dignity of every individual (art. 12.iv)
  • take positive steps to achieve gender equality (art. 13(a), ensure proper nutrition (art. 13(b)) and health (art. 13(c)), promote sustainable development through environmental protection (art. 13(d)), and provide education (art. 13(f))
  • "enhance the quality of life in rural areas and recognize rural standards as a key indicator of the success of government policies" (art. 13(e))
  • recognize and protect the family (art. 13(i)), art. 22(1)), and protect and promote the well-being of children (art. 13(h))
  • provide for the redress of human rights violations through the courts, the Ombudsman, the National Human Rights Commission (Chapter XI)
Finally, the Constitution provides for the accountability of the government in exercising its powers (art. 12.iii).
Why is that important? It is the value added of human rights to public health to make public authorities accountable for failing to ensure rights. Accountability is also a mechanism to ensure implementation of policies and laws, including those adopted to further individual rights. For additional research or information, please contact the Human Rights Working Group.

However, the Constitution allows restrictions to rights in certain cases.

What do restrictions entail?

By authorizing restrictions to rights, it is acknowledged that Lesotho may be confronted with situations that will entail an infringement on rights. In such situations, Lesotho may take measures to address a public health problem without violating its own constitution.

Restrictions are authorized under international law if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. the restriction is provided for and carried out in accordance with the law
  2. the restriction is in the interest of a legitimate objective of general interest (e.g., the protection of public health)
  3. the restriction is strictly necessary in a democratic society to achieve the objective
  4. there are no less restrictive means available to reach the same objective
  5. the restriction is not drafted or imposed arbitrarily, i.e. in an unreasonable or otherwise discriminatory manner