High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda has warned politicians that they risk facing the law if they abuse fellow politicians, including female aspirants.
The judge issued the warning on Friday at the High Court in Blantyre where the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency held an orientation seminar for Malawi Law Society (MLS) members.
He said political parties can be held accountable for physical and psychological violence against women or anyone subjected in the political processes.
Said Nyirenda: “It is not the other way round. You cannot say these are political matters, they are not of judicial interest.”
The judge also attacked political parties that are asking their members to sign documents binding them not to contest as independent candidates if they fail to sail through in primary elections, saying the move is in violation of Section 40 of the Constitution which gives Malawians freedom to freely “campaign for a political rally or cause and to participate is a right”.
In her remarks, ActionAid Malawi executive director Grace Malera said evaluation of the previous 50:50 election campaigns showed that women did not have legal assistance throughout the different phases.
She said: “We have women who faced corruption during elections and some violence where their rights were violated, but did not do anything because they did not know where to go.
“For those who managed, they encountered some difficulties such as finding enough money to pay lawyers which is why we reached out to Malawi Law Society so that women can find help.”
Salima North West legislator Jessie Kabwila (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said violence against women comes in various forms.
The legislator said: “It comes in the form of you being kept out of spaces of power, left out on information or being punished for speaking up.”
Kabwila highlighted that one of the major weaknesses in Malawi’s politics is that loyalty to party leadership determines one’s future.
She said: “For women, it comes in the form of kickbacks. For those who are not crazy like some of us because they don’t call you assertive it can even reach to the point where you have to sleep with someone just to become a candidate as they [the men] are the ones who decide.”
One of the female aspirants, Sandra Bangwanji, agreed with Kabwila in her testimony, saying she was threatened, insulted and harassed during primary elections.
MLS vice-president Tadala Chinkwezule said the society is providing legal support and guidance to all female aspirants for the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The lwasyers’ body has signed a memorandum of understanding with the 50:50 Campaign Management Agency to support female aspirants in need of legal assistance, including representation in court.