Malawi Police urged to arrest fathers who stop paying child support

Child Justice Magistrate, Esmie Tembenu has appealed to the police to consider prosecuting men who abandon the responsibility of child care.

“I am aware that women have been going to victim support units (VSU) complaining that their husbands abandoned them and their children yet they have no money for maintenance but no one has been taken to court,” she said at a child welfare stakeholders’ meeting held at Samaritan Trust in Blantyre.

She noted that when a woman goes to complain at VSU, she is only given a friendly letter for her to give the husband probably inviting him to the unit for discussions.

“When a woman reports of such an issue the police is supposed to go and arrest the man and take him to court for prosecution,” Tembenu said.

Margaret Mukwena an executive Director at Samaritan Trust .-Photo by Arkangel Tembo/Mana

According to the magistrate, sections 164 of the penal code says any parent or guardian who deserts a child below 16 years old shall be liable for five years imprisonment while section 165 says there is need to provide basic necessities to children.

However Tembenu said no one has been imprisoned on such grounds yet there are so many deserted children adding that if such fathers were to be charged and imprisoned others could learn from them.

She also said there are other mothers who want to use the child to get money from men when it is not benefiting the child.

“Misuse of maintenance money is against the law and one could be charged to pay a fine of K50,000,” she said.

Nevertheless, police officers who were present at the meeting said the police have been arresting such men but the challenge has been that the women go and beg for their husband’s release.

But Tembenu argued that issues of the law are different from family affairs and this particular issue is to do with the law since it involves child abuse.

‘Let’s gang up’

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of Samaritan Trust, Margaret Mukwena has asked stakeholders working in child organizations to work together towards banishing street children once and for all.

“It seems every organization is working on their own hence there seems to be no progress on the issue of addressing the needs of street children,” she noted.

Blantyre District Social Welfare Office (DSWO) statistics indicate that there are about 6,000 street children in Blantyre.

For many years, the DSWO and other Non Governmental Organisations working in child welfare have tried their best to remove children from the streets and take them to children’s homes or back to their parent’s home but to no avail.

Makwena pointed out that street children are at higher risk of child trafficking, sexual exploitation, transitional sex and child labour among others since they do not have parental care and guidance.

“There is need for all stakeholders to gang up and show the street kid that we are there to support  them and it should be borne in their minds that they could go to police or social welfare for protection and help,” she said.

A survey which Samaritan Trust carried out recently established that lack of parental care is the main reason why there are many children on the street.

Peer pressure, poverty, lack of basic needs and running away from abusive step parents among others are some of the reasons kids resort to going to live in the streets.

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