The Malawian civil society is only rudimentary to this day. Under the Banda dictatorship, local NGOs were subject to strict controls. With the exception of politically harmless work, they were not allowed to take any action. The religious communities (Christian churches and Muslims) had for the most part come to terms with the regime.
With the exception of the large churches, which have been able to significantly increase their social and political influence, civil society is relatively small and socially weak. It is not a significant counterbalance to the state.
Since May 2019, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been attracting attention through numerous mass protests in connection with the presidential elections in the same month. In relatively well-organized mass protests, the HRDC is loudly calling for the resignation or recall of the chairman of the electoral commission, Jane Ansah. This is responsible for chaotic and allegedly unbelievable elections. With astonishing perseverance, the HRDC managed to organize regular mass protests in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu, Zomba and also in smaller settlements. However, most of these registered demonstrations degenerated into violence and vandalism, which eventually led to much criticism from various institutions, for example the Law Society, and led society associations. The demonstrations have now died down. The HRDC defends itself against widespread criticism that it is politically oriented and supports the opposition parties MCP and UTM. The HRDC describes itself as not politically affiliated.
According to the NGO law passed in 1998, all NGOs must be members of the Council of Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi (CONGOMA). The legal framework for the work of civil society organizations is considered acceptable.
In contrast to the Banda period, human rights are constitutionally guaranteed. Serious systematic injuries have not been identified since 1994. There are no political prisoners. The death penalty exists but is no longer carried out in the democratic system as Presidents Muluzi and Mutharika and their successors refused to countersign death sentences. Amnesty International provides information on the human rights situation in its 2019 annual report and the US State Department in its current annual report.
According to estatelearning, the public marriage of a homosexual couple caused a stir, which led to their immediate arrest under the law of the country. The couple, whose outing showed deliberate provocation of the state organs, was sentenced to a maximum sentence of 14 years in a labor camp in May 2010, despite massive protests from parts of civil society, international NGOs and some donors. Immediately after a conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting Malawi, the couple were pardoned by Mutharika a few days later. According to media reports, one of them then said that he now wanted to marry a woman. The government has so far refused to change the law. In January 2011 an amendment to the Penal Code came into force, which now also criminalizes female homosexuality.significant criticism from traditional chiefs, politicians (especially the DPP) and the main Christian churches, as well as from the Muslim Association, which calls for the death penalty. Banda intended that vote in parliament to release. In October 2012, however, Banda announced that the time for legalization in Malawi was not yet ripe. In January 2016, the Mutharika government surprised people by announcing a moratorium. The anti-homosexual laws are not to be applied until a referendum is held on the issue. This legally impossible moratorium was then overturned by the judiciary. Legally, only the parliament has legislative competence, not the government. The Chakwera government has commissioned a study in Malawi Human Rights Commission in order to clarify the question of whether same-sex partnerships should be legalized, as the Minister of Justice in November 2020 reported.
In connection with the demonstrations organized by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), there were police actions, but also violent attacks, apparently by young people of the ruling party, and attempts to intimidate the HRDC leadership (e.g. through amateurish arson attacks).
So-called ritual murders of people with albinism (there are an estimated 7-10,000 in Malawi), which are strongly condemned by the government, are causing a stir. Amnesty International recorded 19 murder victims between late 2014 and early 2017. Murderers and their accomplices are severely punished by the courts. After another murder case in March 2018, the President called for a national debate on reintroducing the death penalty for murder. Amnesty published a detailed report on the ritual murders of people with albinism in mid-2018.
In September 2017, rumors arose in the southern region, caused by witchcraft and superstition, that vampires were up to mischief. Suspects were chased by the mob. A total of nine people were lynched by the mob. In affliction also doctors and health workers, their stethoscopes excited among the rural population suspected came. The matter was resolved towards the end of 2017 thanks to the consistent action taken by the police and judiciary.