It may be a mere coincidence that the World Mountains Day falls on December 11, a day after the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence which runs from today to December 10.
For some hikers, the celebration of life in the mountains can be used against the vice of rape and defilement, which has tainted Malawi of late.
When Mordecai Mpaya joined members of the Hike for Fitness Club excursion on Chiradzulu Mountain, he well knew the cause.
Apart from appreciating nature, the hikers went up to the peak, about 1 770 metres above sea level (the third highest point in Malawi after Sapitwa in Mulanje and Zomba) to give one message: Rape and defilement stain Malawi human rights.
Cases continue to soar. Police records show there were 1 539 cases in 2018, rising to 1 766 in 2019. From January to September this year, 1 501 cases have already been recorded, according to deputy National Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya.
Mpaya, is concerned, as a hiker.
“It is not sitting in well. If these rapists have so much energy, why can’t they release it elsewhere, like hiking,” he says.
It is not someone he knows that has ever been raped, but for Fingani Phiri, hiking for close to five hours is a way of sending the message across that rape must stop.
“I have a daughter and for me she is too precious that when I think, God forbid, that she may be a victim, makes me rage. Going all the way through hiking, I feel the message that rape must vanish goes across,” he says.
Chigumula-based Charity Kachipapa wonders why defilement cases of children as young as one are rampant.
A day before that hike, she says, a friend told her of a four-year-old who was defiled by her father in Machinjiri.
Kachipapa affirms that to add salt to that injury, the mother tried to block her husband’s arrest.
“I don’t know why we have come this far. Is it about rituals? If that is the case, why can’t the herbalists give their offspring in these evil sacraments?
“I mean, if some people hide behind dressing to rape children, can they explain how a baby in diapers can attract this evil?” she wonders.
The hike against rape comes at a time when activists have been on the street demanding an end to rape.
Recently, women in the media presented a petition to Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati.
In a sequel, women activists under the Tithetse Nkhanza banner gave a 90-day ultimatum for government to address the issue of men forcing themselves on women and girls.
Twambilire Mogha joined the excursion up Chiradzulu Mountain against the ill. She correlates rape and mountains.
“It is sad that mountains, nature conservatories have turned into rape scenes. Women who go to collect firewood are raped.
“I see rapists in the same category as those people who cut down trees wantonly. Rape and defilement have disfigured the national fabric,” she says.
Mogha echoes the call for stiffer punishments for rapists. At the most, she calls for the castration of the malefactors, a message that dominated placards in recent demonstrations.
Recently, the High Court Mzuzu Registry sentenced Thomas Chavula to 58 years in jail for defiling three girls between 2016 and 2019. The terms will be served concurrently, meaning Chavula will do time in 24 years.
“It is this kind of stiffer penalties that may bring sanity. Women and girls should not fear to go into open spaces like mountains and, for that matter, their living rooms. That is considering that it is close relatives who are defiling girls,” says Mogha.
Hikers for Fitness Club chairperson Tango Ngalawa feels hiking can be used to advocate for a cause.
He cited the 2 Wheels 2 School charity project where five hikers scaled to Sapitwa on Mulanje Mountain to raise funds for needy students.
Ngalawa also alluded to former minister Ken Lipenga’s endeavour to raise funds for Nazombe School for the Blind through hiking.
“It is our responsibility to raise awareness in communities where we hike. Since this rape culture is a national concern, we felt we must add our voice against the vice,” he says.