A 13-year-old girl in Rumphi is nursing fragments of a shattered dream after being defiled by a married man almost thrice her age.
The child disguised as Ivy wanted to become a police officer to enforce law and order in the tobacco-growing rural setting. However, she has dropped out in Standard Three impregnated by Dave Chirambo, 37.
On Friday, Rumphi First Grade Magistrate’s Court sentenced the man to 14 years imprisonment.
Ivy wishes the father-of-six was “jailed for life”.
“He threatened to kill me if I revealed what I had gone through and twice forced me to terminate the pregnancy,” she says.
Section 138 of the Penal Code outlaws sexual intercourse with girls aged below 17, who are too young to give consent.
Ivy fears “the man may kill me if he walks free.”
The girl says Chirambo first defiled her in 2019 around 4pm.
“I went to Chirambo Trading Centre to buy fish for supper. He called me to get some money and dragged me into his house near a maize mill where he works.
“I screamed for help, but he sealed my mouth with his palm, fuming: ‘If you shout, I will kill you.’ I was helpless. He did what he wanted. After an hour, he gave me K300 and released me.”
The girl rues multiple sexual attacks that reportedly followed.
“I was afraid to tell my parents. I was afraid Dave would cut my throat,” she narrates.
Fearful Ivy kept mum until her mother spotted her vomiting and spitting frequently.
Her mother recalls: “She was sleepy, weak and distressed. She couldn’t eat, sleep or hang out with peers. She stopped going to school and started eating green mangoes, vomiting and spitting like never before.
“When I asked her, she said nothing. When quizzed by elderly women who threatened to report the matter to police, she told them she was pregnant.”
Ivy’s parents reported the matter to Chikulamayembe Women’s Forum, which swiftly engaged the police.
Says Regina Chihana, coordinator of the women’s forum supported by ActionAid Malawi: “We want to end gender-based violence which often goes unreported in Rumphi. Every month, we get 40 to 70 cases. We refer them to police and constantly track progress to see justice done.”
Ivy’s mother concurs: “As parents, we preferred the women’s forum as it doesn’t tolerate or conceal sexual violence against women and girls. The police arrested the man and the girl underwent medical examinations at Bolero Health Centre.
“The forum also gave us transport money to go to court where Ivy testified in camera. I want his attacker to rot in jail because the schoolgirls’ future is doomed by prospects of becoming a mother at 13. She says it’s better to die.”
Ivy’s father recalls confronting the convicted defiler when he saw her daughter drawing water for him at the market.
“I suspect they had long been doing it. I was very angry. The man is six years older than me and has six children with three different wives. The girl is too young to give birth safely and health workers have said she has to deliver at Rumphi District Hospital, not Bolero,” he says.
A handshake denied
The father ‘refused a bribe’ to resolve the case out of court.
“I suspect he continued abusing my daughter after I had confronted him. I don’t know where he even got the courage to offer a bribe. We just wanted justice for our daughter,” he asserts.
Police prosecutor Andrew Singini told the court that Chirambo had defiled the girl four times since 2019 and promised to marry her in 2020.
Chirambo pleaded not guilty, but the State paraded four witnesses against him.
First grade magistrate Radson Gamariel jailed him for 14 years to deter others from rampant sexual attacks on underage girls.
Since 2019, the rising wave of reported sexual violence has given rise to mass protests that compelled President Lazarus Chakwera to form a task force to combat the crimes.
“As President, I condemn these acts in the strongest terms. It is disturbing to note that across the country, children are being defiled and the numbers keep escalating. These are the reported cases, and we know others are not reported,” he said.
Time to act
Bernadette Malunga, a gender and governance law expert based at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, calls for a coordinated approach to eliminate sexual attacks on girls.
She says: “We have clear laws in place, penal and civil laws which if implemented can eliminate sexual violence against children.”
Concurring, Lawyer Tiwonge Simkonda, from Action Aid, salutes Chikulamayembe Women’s Forum and the police for seeking justice for Ivy. However, she calls for a stiffer penalty.
“The punishment meted out is not enough considering aggravating factors plus the latest judgements by the High Court that has imposed longer jail terms,” she says in reference to .
Recently, Justice Redson Kapindu increased Zeeshani Jaral Raja’s jail term from 16 years to 30 and Fabiano Maliko’s from 14 to 40 years.