Alice, 40, from Mulanje is a woman down in the dumps.
In May this year, her uncle, 72, defiled her 14-year-old daughter in the presence of her other 17-year-old daughter.
“He intended to defile both, but the elder one was menstruating at the time. She was made to watch the ordeal. She was defiled until she lost consciousness and he ran away.
“We went to police who referred us to the hospital, however, the perpetuator is walking free in the village. I even sold chickens and engaged community police who demanded K4 000 to apprehend the culprit, but to no avail,” Alice said.
She said her girls are traumatised and she is angry. She is contemplating hiring vigilantes to catch him.
Another mother whose tears can’t just stop trickling down her pimpled cheeks is Joyce, 38, from Mulanje near the Mozambique border.
According to Joyce, her 15-year-old daughter was abducted by a 37-year-old man on July 25 this year.
“The man is married with two children and hid my daughter at his parents’ home for over three weeks where he was sleeping with her.
“We reported the matter to the chief and Youth Net and Counseling [Yoneco] child protection workers who referred us to police, but action is taking ages. My daughter is too young to be in a polygamous relationship and I want her to finish school,” Joyce said.
She said she wants the law to take its course to set a deterrent to other men who disregard the law with impunity by defiling miners.
The story of another 13-year-old also from Mulanje shows how wicked and insensitive some men can be.
According to her mother, the Standard Five pupil has had her future literary wrecked by a brother-in-law who imprignated the minor
“He defiled her at the dimba continuously while I was away at the hospital with my late husband. My child is completely traumatised by the experience.
“We fear is she will have problems delivering since she is just a minor. I need justice for my daughter at whatever cost,” she said.
Rhoda, also from Mulanje is another woman spending sleepless days crying for justice for her seven-month pregnant girl.
“My daughter is 14 and was sleeping with a 27-year-old who is married to my sister. He has two children and yet he is on the prowl defiling other peoples’ daughters.
“As parents, we are devastated because we are uneducated. We hoped our first-born would attain education and care for her siblings in future,” she said.
Ishmael Hollege is a social wlefare officer in Mulanje. He says coordination among stakeholders speeds up justice delivery.
“Justice for sexual-gender-based violence (SGBV) such as incest, rape or defilement takes long to conclude because of lack of coordination. Rape or defilement cases do not need any discussion, but outright arrest if there is evidence. This is not the case,” he says.
Hollege adds that when victims or guardians take their own initiative to have the perpetuators arrested, it means the wheels of justice are moving backwards, defeating its purpose.
Senior Chief Chikumbu of Mulanje says the slow progress for SGBV penalises victims since they spend a lot on transport or withdraw the cases altogether.
“It is demoralising when you see the perpetuators roaming around because authorities dilly-dally arresting them. The impunity of SGBV continues because justice is delayed,” he said.
Mulanje gender officer Mafunga Jamu encourages parents to advocate justice for their sexually-abused daughters.
“Some parents bury their heads in the sand. Parents should report SGBV and demand justice,” he said.
Naison Chibondo, Mulanje station community policing coordinator said collective responsibility is needed for speedy conclusion of SGBV cases.
“When cases delay, we lose evidence. Every stakeholder should account for action taken on a particular case because others are sleeping on the job.
“Section 36 of the Child Protection Care and Child Justice Act says witnessing an abuse, but failing to report the same on is liable to an offense,” he said.
McBain Mkandawire, Yoneco executive director said his organisation, with funding from Global Fund channelled through Action Aid is implementing the Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) Project in a bid to change the mindset of different stakeholders in the child justice system.
“The child justice system in the country is sick. If an errant politician is in the wrong—fuel to go hunt down the person is instantly found—but for a child abuser, they say no resources.
“Institutions are sleeping on the job and within government system, we have accepted high level of mediocrity. We pray that the reform processes permeates the entire government system, including the child justice,” he said.