As the country observes the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), the rising cases of sexual violence on girls and young women is disheartening and worrisome to every father who has a girl child. It is high time fathers and guardians of girl children rose up and protested against our fellow men that have turned into dangerous hyenas.
Malawi Human Rights Commission has recently reported that between 2018 and 2020, rape cases have risen by 42 percent while defilement has increased by 34 percent.
While the motive behind defilement and rape is not known, various schools of thoughts have suggested that traditional beliefs of rituals to get richer and psychiatric disorder are some of the reasons behind this vice. For instance, in a study done on Mzuzu Prison inmates convicted on various cases of defilement and rape cases, it was revealed that 54.8 percent of defilers had a prevalence of paedophilia, a known psychiatric disorder. Therefore, I think unless all the reasons behind this act are well explored, it will be very difficult to curb the vice.
Sexually abused children and adolescents are at high risk of a wide range of mental health disorders and adjustment difficulties that can persist until their adult life. This is a cause for worry and a push for us all to take action to end the barbaric act. It is high time those that are involved in this malpractice get stiffer penalties that see them staying behind bars for a period of not less than 25 years.
On the other hand, communities and parents should ensure that girls are not sent far without an escort. Some of the incidences are happening because as parents we have the tendency to send a girl child to fetch water, firewood or do home errands in far places. This puts a girl child at high risk of being abused.
While we are dealing with sexual abuses, we must not forget to root out the domestic abuses that girls and young women are made to experience in our communities.
Sometimes we see girls being offered for marriage as a means of redress for a crime or to settle a debt. In most of these cases, the girl is subsequently used as a slave and is also physically beaten and punished for the crime committed by a family member.
In some situations of extreme poverty, selling a girl into marriage allows a family to escape the burden of raising a girl, even when the marriage is a guise for sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, forced labour or human trafficking.
The bottom line is that girls are often treated as a chattel, bought and sold by those who have power over them. This must also stop as it contributes to the rising cases of defilement and rape.
Lastly, the rising cases of rape and defilement are bringing shame and embarrassment on Malawi as a God-fearing nation. Therefore, there is a need for concerted efforts from law enforcers, lawmakers, religious leaders, the academic and all individuals to work together to curb sexual abuses perpetrated on our girls and young women.
It is everybody’s responsibility to watch over our girls. Let us be cautious of who girl children spend time with, where they go and what they do. Furthermore, the Department of Civic Education and law enforcers should conduct wider awareness and sensitisation campaigns on the effects of child sexual abuses and its consequences on both the victim and the defilers. Let us all unite in the fight against the vice, let us guard our girl child from men who have turned into hyenas and dangerous vultures.