President Lazarus Chakwera has reacted to demand by women in the country for harsher penalties to eradicate an entrenched culture of sexual violence by directing the Ministry of Homeland Security to lead a task force on dealing with the matters urgently.
Chakwera made his directive in his Saturday radio address as earlier in the day Association of Women in Media (Awome) in Mzuzu appealed to the President to weigh in on escalating cases of sexual harassment after its Northern Region members demonstrated in the city’s streets.
The demonstration was held in solidarity with their colleagues from Lilongwe and Blantyre who held their protest march on Tuesday.
In his radio address, President Chakwera said the task force should compromise ministries as well as traditional and church leaders and leaders of learning institutions at all levels, among others.
The President condemned the escalating defilement cases, saying children should be protected and that when one child is attacked, all children are affected.
“As President, I condemn these acts in strongest terms,” said Chakwera.
“It is disturbing to note that across the country, children are being defiled and the numbers keep escalating. For instance, a report from the One Stop Centre at Mzuzu [Central Hospital] shows that 119 cases have been recorded since the beginning of this year. These are the reported cases, and we know others are not reported.”
Just last week, Mzuzu registered four cases of defilement, including that of a 10-year-old is battling for her life at Mzuzu Central Hospital. The girl, who was defiled on her way from school, has already undergone two procedures.
And on Sunday after attending Remembrance Day memorial service, President Chakwera and First Lady Monica made an announced visit to Mzuzu Central Hospital to see the girl who is receiving treatment there for several injuries sustained from the sexual attack.
The recent upsurge in reported cases of defilement has prompted several gender and governance bodies to protest across the country’s cities calling on relevant authorities to intervene in the matter.
Grace Mtawali of Women Lawyers said they are proposing a legal review of the laws on defilement because the current ones are not deterrent.
They want laws to be tough on sexual violence as a deterrent to increased cases of rape and defilement , saying 14 years maximum sentence for defilers is manifestly inadequate.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :