Hon. Folks, on Wednesday this week Malawi joined the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence (GBV) under the global theme, “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”.
Globally, this event is an important milestone in raising awareness against all forms of violence against women and girls all of which are a violation of human rights as enshrined in the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) human rights protocols.
For Malawi, the country started observing the campaign in 2001 and it has provided a platform for stakeholders such as government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community based organisations (CBOs) to raise awareness, influence behavioural change and lobby for political commitment to end gender violence.
But this year’s commemoration comes when the scale of gender-based violence, including premeditated sexual violence against children (some as young as five months-old) has reached alarming levels in Malawi.
Hon. Folks, we will therefore dwell much on sexual violence because it appears Malawi is now possessed by a strange spell or psychic attack that has triggered a rise in incidents of GBV and child molestation or rape which are occurring almost every day.
Certainly, there is no doubt that this country—internationally revered as the Warm Heart of Africa—has in recent years reproduced more creatures male and female that apparently use kidneys for thinking and have no problems engaging in acts that defy common sense.
One horrible case that occurred just this week is an incident in Zomba where police arrested a 31-year-old man for allegedly defiling a five-month-old baby after he asked the parent to surrender the child to him so he assists in babysitting.
Of course, there have been other shameful cases as well, especially the cases where some fathers committed incest with their own biological daughters.
Unfortunately, all this is happening in spite of the well known fact that sexual violence results in severe physical, psychological and social harm.
Victims of the vice, including minors, experience an increased risk of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted infections, untimely pregnancies and psychological trauma.
This is why all Malawians need to enhance efforts in fighting against gender based and child sexual violence which continues to occur in our communities, including homes, schools and even churches.
It is also encouraging to note that the United Nations (UN) is already strengthening global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the Covid-19 crisis and collecting data that can improve life-saving services for the affected women and girls.
Hon. Folks, as the world observes 16 days of the elimination of GBV, it is also disheartening to note that the Covid-19 pandemic has increased the plague of sexual and other forms of violence against women in many countries and households mainly due to national lockdowns imposed by governments to curb the spread of the global virus.
A UN report released in September says countries like Nigeria and South Africa, as well as many others in Europe, Asia, and the America’s have not been spared by the scourge of domestic and child violence which surged during lockdowns.
In its statement marking the official launch of 16 days of activism against gender violence on Wednesday, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) also indicated that adopted regional frameworks with the aim of tackling the phenomenon in a coordinated manner.
Finally, it is encouraging that now many people, including those that previously laughed and shouted at campaigners have embraced GBV issues and some men now report when faced with GBV to police unlike in the past.