Female journalists under the banner Association of Women in Media (Awome) have urged authorities to toughen laws on sexual harassment as a deterrent to increased cases of sexual abuse.
The female media practitioners, who were accompanied by female medical and legal practitioners, police officers and politicians marched on the streets of Blantyre and Lilongwe to show their anger on increased cases of rape and defilement in the country.
The women are demanding life imprisonment for perpetrators of sexual violence in line with what is prescribed in the penal code.
They also want the cases to be tried in the High Court and that those who shield sexual offenders must be prosecuted according to the law.
Penal Code Act, 2011, art. 138(1) stipulates that any person who carnally knows any girl under the age of sixteen years shall be guilty of a felony and shall be liable to imprisonment for life.
Reading the petition before delivering it to Blantyre City Council, Awome chairperson Edyth Kambalame stressed that the female journalists are tired of reporting on what she called heart-breaking stories of what numerous women and girls have gone through at the hands of men who fail to control their sexual feelings.
Reads the petition in part: “Women are becoming more and more helpless on these issues, even when they are supposed to be protected under both local and international legal instruments. We believe that the ministry of gender will therefore be able to champion a long-lasting solution that will see not a decrease, but an end to incidents of rape and defilement. “
On her part, speaker of the National Assembly who joined the march in Lilongwe urged the nation to rise and fight the malpractice.
She said: “There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, we want anything that was included in the Child Protection Act to be implemented.”
Hara condemned mothers who shield abusive men in the name of financial support adding that such women need to face the law as well.
A member of Women Lawyers Association Madalo Banda highlighted that the country’s Pinal Code is explicit on this issue, that those convicted of defiling a girl below of the age of 16 should face life imprisonment.
However, this punishment which the female journalists are vouching for has not been implemented, most convicts in rape and defilement cases are given a maximum of 14 years imprisonment with hard labour.
Banda further spoke of the need for the protection of women who report issues on Gender-Based Violence.
“We need a multifaceted approach on these issues. The Ministry of Gender should also take an active role in sensitizing young girls and women to make sure they are aware of their rights because sometimes it’s an issue of ignorance among the women,”