Mzuzu Magistrate Court in northern Malawi on Monday convicted four commercial sex workers for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy and infecting him with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the process.
Ellen Pemba, 31, Zainabu Mkawa, 37, Martha Mlenga, 22, and Zainabu Mussa, 32, were arrested on 5 September, 2014 on charges of indulging in sexual activity with a child contrary to section 160 (B) (2) of the Penal Code.
Mzuzu Police Station Child prosecutor Inspector Vickness Simwinga told the court on 9 September, 2014 that the four women together with two others who are at large forcefully took turns to have sex with the boy.
She said the incident happened at Deep Down Bar in Masasa Township where the women were working as barmaids.
Simwinga told the court that the boy used to go to the pub to collect empty liquor sachets and that was where he met the women.
She further said in July, Pemba and Mlenga grabbed the boy by the hands and took him out of the bar saying a police officer was looking for him.
But when they got outside, the two women dragged the boy into Pemba’s room within the pub’s premises. Pemba then called four other women into the room who ‘pinned’ him down onto the bed while one of them covered his mouth.
Then, starting with Pemba, all the women took turns to have sex with the boy.
Testifying in the court, the boy said out of the six women, only Mlenga put a condom on his private part first before forcing his member into herself.
It was in August that the boy’s friends noted that he was having difficulties to walk and they tipped a neighbour about his condition.
When the neighbour checked the boy, he saw sores on his private parts. The boy was immediately taken to the nearby Mzuzu Prison Health Clinic where they referred him to Mzuzu Health Centre and was diagnosed with STDs.
The court further heard that following the diagnosis, the boy revealed that he had forced sexual intercourse with the women and that one of them (Pemba) had sores on her private parts.
His grandmother then reported the matter to Mzuzu Police Station who instituted investigations leading to the arrest of the women.
All the four women denied the charge saying they were not in close contact with the boy though they could see him around the pub. They further argued that as commercial sex workers their target were men with money.
The State then paraded six witnesses who testified against the women. They included the boy, the neighbour who took him to hospital, the nurse who treated him, his grandmother, his teacher and a detective who investigated the case.
Weighing submissions from both the State and the defendants on Monday, Senior Resident Magistrate Austin Banda said the State had proved beyond reasonable doubt that the boy was a minor and that he had been sexually assaulted by the women.
Among other proofs, Banda said there was corroboration between the boy’s observation that there were sores on Pemba’s private parts and that he (the boy) was found with STDs.
“I have no doubt that each of the defendants had sex with the child during the period,” Banda said.
He further said he was aware that there is a growing belief among some people that if one sleeps with a minor, they can be cleansed of their ailments. But he was quick to say that there was no proof that this incident was motivated by such belief.
“I, however, find a lapse in parentage of the child because he was frequenting the bar to the extent of knowing the barmaids by name,” he said.
Banda then found each of the women guilty of indulging in sexual activity with a minor contrary to section 160 (B) of the Penal Code.
He said the convicts can appeal to the High Court within 30 days from the day of conviction.
Banda then adjourned the case to Friday April 24 at 9 am when the defendants will say their mitigations and the prosecution will make their final submission before sentencing.
Pemba hails from Mgunda Village in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mthiramanja in Blantyre District. Mlenga hails from Wanja Village in the area of TA Malanda in Nkhata Bay District while Mkawa and Mussah come from Mangochi District in Mtalimanja and Chowe villages, respectively, in the area of TA Mponda.
**Reporting by McCarthy Mwalwimba & Christina Mkutumula in Mzuzu.