The Blantyre Child Justice Court says children should not be used to perpetrate political violence in the run-up to May 20 Tripartite Elections.
Magistrate Esmie Tembenu said in an interview it was important to warn children in the wake of demonstrations last year against government in which pupils stormed the streets, stoning people and vehicles and showering insults at the President.
Tembenu said the language used by the children during their protest was not child-friendly which was a clear indication that there is potential for children to be exploited by politicians during the campaigns.
Said Tembenu: “While we appreciate that children have a right to demonstrate, we would like to warn children who misapply their right to demonstrate, that if they deliberately and unlawfully insult the modesty of any politician, the law will not spare them.
“We would also want to civic educate parents and guardians of underage children that if they unlawfully and deliberately let children commit crimes, Section 142 of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act will punish them as if they were the ones who had committed the crime.”
Tembenu appealed to parents, guardians, civil society organisations, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, among others, to advise politicians to avoid abusive and obscene languages against fellow politicians in the presence of children.
“The Child Justice Court speaks through judgments. We would, therefore, like to urge children rights NGOs, including accredited organisations [by Malawi Electoral Commission] to educate politicians against exploiting children during this campaign.”
“What pains me most is that the targeted are mostly children from poor families. When these children get arrested, no politician comes openly to rescue them. It is their poor parents who suffer,” she said.
Tembenu has advised children to humble themselves as they wait for their time to participate in elections.