Courts and the poor in Malawi: Economic marginalization, vulnerability, and the law
AbstractMalawi's democratic Constitution of 1994 shifted the law in a pro-poor direction. With the judiciary emerging as a surprisingly strong institution in an otherwise weak political system, one might expect a body of pro-poor jurisprudence to develop. This has not been the case, and this article investigates why. After considering patterns of poverty and the role of law in the dynamics of economic marginalization in Malawi, we examine factors assumed to influence the use of courts by the economically marginalized, the strength of their legal voice, and the response of the courts to poor people's social rights claims. We find an interplay between factors impeding the demand for pro-poor justice as well as its supply: lack of litigation resources; high access barriers; the pull of alternative institutions; and the nature of Malawi's legal culture.