Government and human rights groups have expressed concern over continued violence against women, saying the incidents are counterproductive to gender equality efforts.
Two video clips went viral on social media showing a woman being assaulted and undressed in Blantyre for wearing a miniskirt while another woman in Mzuzu, Thoko Mhone, was also beaten up and undressed on accusations of marital affairs.
Blantyre Police spokesperson Augustus Nkhwazi said in an interview yesterday they have since arrested two suspects in connection with the assault. The two were identified as Frank Duncan, 30, and Dickson Kholiwo, 37.
He described the act as an indication of continued human rights abuses facing women in the country.
Said Nkhwazi: “It is sad and shameful to see a woman assaulted in public and, as police, we will not tolerate that.”
Mzuzu Police has also arrested eight suspects, namely Miness Ng’oma, Lucky Gondwe, Taonga Nyangu, Martha Kawonga, Lucia Matupi, Eunice Chirwa, Chikondi Chirwa and Sabina Chirwa.
In an interview yesterday, Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Mary Navicha warned people against taking the law into their hands, but urged women to dress properly.
She said: “When the Mzuzu incident happened, we engaged the Ministry of Homeland Security, and they arrested the suspects. My ministry will help the Mzuzu woman with psycho-social support because she is traumatised. We will ensure that the law takes its course.
“On the Blantyre incident, let me appeal to fellow women not to deliberately provoke situations. When you are getting out of your house, please dress properly.”
Navicha said government will continue raising awareness of the law among the citizenry.
On his part, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba, whose institution issued a statement on the Blantyre incident, described the action as barbaric, inhumane and degrading.
He said: “HRCC calls on the police to urgently arrest the ring leader of the attackers who is clearly visible in the clip and ensure that he mentions friends. Police should also track and arrest all persons visible in the clip.”
Meanwhile, those arrested in Mzuzu appeared before the magistrate’s court yesterday where they were given holding charges, namely indecent assault and unlawful use of the Internet.
The accused are being represented by lawyer Victor Gondwe while the State is being represented by police prosecutor Betty Msowoya and Jacob Nambiri from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Msowoya told the court that investigations are ongoing and proper charges will be made for the suspects to take plea.
She said: “We are applying to the court so that they remain in custody until investigations are done. We brought them to court so that they know why we arrested, but also respect the 48-hour rule.”
But making an oral application for bail, Gondwe said the Constitution stipulates that bail must be granted and not jail, before conviction.
But Nambiri said the eight have means of finances to interfere with investigations; hence, the need for the suspects to remain in custody for four more days.
Senior resident magistrate Patrick Khamisa said he would make a bail ruling today at 10am, and remanded the eight to Mzuzu Prison.
On November 2 2017, the Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court sentenced three women who abducted and assaulted a fellow woman in Area 25 Township to six years imprisonment.
Section 137 (1) of the Penal Code says any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any woman or girl shall be guilty of a felony and shall be liable to imprisonment of 14 years, with or without corporal punishment.
On the other hand, the Electronic Transactions Act makes it a crime for anyone who wilfully, maliciously and repeatedly uses electronic communication to harass another person.
—Additional reporting by Wisdom Chirombo, Staff Writer