Women’s groups have given government 90 days to act on concerns raised in their petition on escalating cases of defilement in the country.
During a joint march yesterday, Women Doctors Association, Women’s Manifesto Movement and Malawi Feminists Alliance braved the scorching sun in the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu in protest against defilement.
In the petition addressed to the Minister of Gender, Social Welfare and Community Development Patricia Kaliati, copied to various government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), the women outlined specific interventions required from each addressee.
Through the petition, which was delivered to city council offices, the women highlighted a call for a constitutional and institutional review to ensure stiffer punishments for rapists.
Reads the petition in part: “While the numbers continue to rise every day, we note and appreciate that some arrests, trials and sentencing are being effectively conducted but not the majority.
“Furthermore, not much is being done to address the root cause, nor to send an absolutely clear and strong message to Malawi men that sexual violence will not be tolerated and the consequences of such crimes will be harsh penalties.”
It also recognised the effort by the President Lazarus Chakwera to appoint a task force, led by the Minister of Homeland Security, to investigate and find solutions to the rising cases of sexual violence.
In Lilongwe, the epicentre of the march, the petition was received by Principal Secretary for Gender, Social Welfare and Community Development Rosaline Makhumula.
She said: “Just for an assurance that government is committed to fighting the vice, the Office of the President and Cabinet has directed that we form a task force to spearhead the fight against rape and defilement.”
Delivering the petition, Bridget Malewezi, who represented Women Doctors Association, said government should think seriously about the plight of women and girls in the country and act fast to free them.
In Blantyre, the petition was delivered to Blantyre Sibusiso Mandha of Live in Hope Network.
Asked why they went on to stage the protests when government had already instituted a task force on the matter, Women’s Legal Resources Centre’s project officer Chimwemwe Chimasula said the march was not against government.
She said: “We support the move taken by the President. It is the perpetrators we are against and this, we will never stop until the cases drop to zero.”
Among the demands the Women Doctors Association made to authorities include to train and employ more health workers to treat sexual violence victims and also offer psychosocial counselling to the affected families. According to the group, many defilement cases take time to prosecute because medical workers do not show up in the courtrooms during trial.