Dinesh, Krithika, Pamhidzai Bamu, Roopa Madhav, Teresa Marchiori and Marlese von Broembsen, 2021. Re-examining Legal Narratives on Vagrancy, Public Spaces and Colonial Constructs: A Commentary on the ACHPR’s Advisory Opinion on Vagrancy Laws in Africa. Law and Informality Insights, No.4
This edition of Law and Informality Insights analyzes the implications for informal workers of the recent African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ (ACHPR) advisory opinion, which was delivered in response to a continental challenge against vagrancy laws on the grounds that they violate several human rights that are enshrined in binding regional instruments.
In this brief, we first outline the decision of the court, bringing attention to aspects of the advisory opinion that informal workers can use in their struggle for access to public space for trading and other livelihood activities. We then consider the orthodox narratives that inform how public space is conceptualized and regulated, and the competing interests of informal workers on the one hand, and the elite on the other. Finally, we argue that this advisory serves as a useful precedent to challenge notions of criminality associated with legitimate street activities and can help in shifting the narratives dominating regulation of public space.