Two weeks ago, I woke up to some shocking news that a five-month-old baby was defiled by a 31-year-old man from my home district Zomba. Saying that I was shocked will be an understatement. The news simply reaffirmed my position that as a nation, we are all sick in the head and in need of immediate institutional care at Zomba Mental Hospital.
Some people have questioned what manner of evil is this and I agree with them. Bearing in mind that we are coming fresh from another episode of horror and evil acts where a section of our society, persons with albinism, were being butchered for their body parts in some alleged ritual acts is even mind-boggling.
To confirm how sick a nation we have become, as of October this year, reports indicate that 1 961 girls and women have been defiled or raped since January. This implies that by the time you finish reading this column, at least one girl or young woman somewhere in Malawi would have been raped or defiled. Sadly, the major perpetrators are not strangers to the victims but close relatives and in most cases, fathers too. Take for instance a case from Mangochi where a 20-year-old defiled his six-year-old cousin. Move on to Balaka and meet a 43-year-old man who defiled and impregnated his 14-year-old daughter. Then come to Phalombe where a 35-year-old man had the audacity to defile his 17-month-old step-daughter. What manner of evil is this indeed?
With low and sometimes non-reporting of these cases, there could be more cases which confirm one position—our girl child is among endangered species. Surprisingly, this situation comes after several years of awareness and action against the malpractice. Former president Bakili Muluzi is on record to have publically condemned the practice when he asked the menfolk to go and propose to the numerous single women out there instead of defiling innocent young girls. Other presidents that came after him have also spoken against the practice. Vice-President Saulos Chilima too, in his recent public lecture, equally touched on the same and called upon a mindset change on the matter.
Additionally, various civil society organisations have played their role like running a series of awareness campaigns including the recent series of street protests against this practice. I recall one message that suggested castration as a solution but some raised their arms in protest. How sick indeed we have become.
Ironically, the current crisis comes at the time when the global community, Malawi inclusive, is commemorating the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV). This is an international campaign that runs every year from November 25 which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to December 10 which is Human Rights Day. The campaign, running since 1991, gives us an opportunity to challenge violence against women and girls. This year’s theme is Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!
This year’s commemoration is unique in its own way due to the Covid19 pandemic which has brought about its own inherent challenges; hence, extending the state of crisis across the world, Malawi inclusive. Additionally, the theme in itself is quite challenging in its own right. As we reflect on the 16 Days of Activism, let us seriously reconsider the challenge at hand. Let us take action by supporting women and children who have been impacted by GBV. Some of the defiled children urgently need rehabilitation. Our girls need a safe space from the marauding sick men out there waiting to strike another victim. Above all, let us for once be angry against this alien behaviour and probably conduct citizen arrest next time you meet one of these sick men.
As for you President Lazarus Chakwera, recall the vow you made during this year’s commemoration of World Children’s Day held at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe where you declared that you will protect children from violation and abuse. Such a time has come and the girl-child is knocking on your gate. Mr. President, declare the rising cases of defilement and rape a National Crisis. Another opportunity for your government to be in a hurry once more to clear the swamp infested by sick men has availed itself and I hope you will act decisively on his urgent matter. #EnoughIsEnough