Following escalating cases of defilement and rape in the country, President Lazarus Chakwera has directed the Ministry of Homeland Security to lead a task force on dealing with the matters urgently.
In his Saturday radio address, Chakwera said the task force should comprise ministries as well as traditional and church leaders and leaders of learning institutions at all levels, among others.
The move by Chakwera has since been commended by gender and governance experts, saying it will help deal with defilement in a more comprehensive, systematic and orderly manner.
In his address, the President condemned the escalating defilement cases, saying children should be protected and that when one child is attacked, all children are affected.
Said Chakwera: “As President, I condemn these acts in the strongest terms.
“It is disturbing to note that across the country, children are being defiled and the numbers keep escalating. For instance, a report from the One Stop Centre at Mzuzu [Central Hospital] shows that 119 cases have been recorded since the beginning of this year. These are the reported cases, and we know others are not reported.”
In his Facebook Post yesterday, the President stated that after attending Remembrance Day Memorial Service, he and First Lady Monica made an unannounced visit to Mzuzu Central Hospital to see a little girl who is receiving treatment there for severe injuries sustained from being defiled
In an interview yesterday, a gender and governance expert based at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, Bernadette Malunga said there is need for a coordinated approach to eliminate sexual assaults on children.
She said: “We have clear laws in place, penal and civil laws which if implemented can eliminate sexual violence against children.”
Malunga, who is also a law lecturer, said despite systems to protect children being in place, they remain defective with the criminal justice system being “corrupt and too slow”.
She also said most people still have patriarchal and sexist views about the proper conduct of women and girls which derails efforts to protect the girl child from abuse.
Malunga said unless the country deals with such underlying issues, the task force may not achieve its intended goals.
The recent increase in reported cases of defilement has prompted several gender and governance bodies to protest across the country’s cities, calling on relevant authorities to intervene in the matter.
In the past week, the Association of Women in Media (Awome), a grouping of female journalists, marched in the country’s main cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu with an appeal for authorities to toughen laws on sexual violence as a deterrent to increased cases of rape and defilement.
In a petition to Minister of Gender, Social Welfare and Community Development Patricia Kaliati, the female scribes demanded a full implementation of legal provisions that protect women and children, stiffer penalties for perpetrators and the criminalisation of the practice of shielding offenders. They also demanded that rape and defilement cases be tried in the High Court.