Don’t spare govt vehicles when conducting searches – Judge

Child Justice Court Judge, Esmie Tembenu, has said Malawi Police officers must not exclude government vehicles when conducting searches for potential criminal activities, including human trafficking.

Tembenu was speaking during a public discussion on the role of society in supporting victims of human trafficking at Malawi College of Medicine in Blantyre.

“Often when police are searching cars in places such as police checkpoints, they do not search vehicles with an MG (Malawi Government) registration number. But you cannot say it is impossible for these vehicles to be used in such crimes as transporting victims of human trafficking,” Tembenu said.

Tembenu agreed with other panelists to discussion, Maxwell Matewere who is the Executive Director of Eye of the Child and Zindaba Chisiza, a theatre and performance scholar that dealing with the problem of human trafficking require collaborated effort among various stakeholders.

“Theater for example can provide space for human trafficking stories, like those of victims to be told and move society into action in search for ways of dealing with the problem,” Chisiza, son of celebrated actor, the late Du Chisiza said.

Taking his turn to make a contribution, Matewere said society must actively look out for victims of human trafficking and report to relevant authorities such as the police who he said have now been trained and established specific offices for dealing with such problems.

Habiba Osman: Malawi need tough anti-human trafficking laws

The public discussion was organized by the Norwegian Church Aid in collaboration with the Free Expression Institute.

Programme Coordinator responsible for prevention of trafficking in women and children at the Norwegian Church Aid, Habiba Osman, said it was sad that at present, perpetrators of human trafficking are not adequately punished when caught.

She said continued occurrence human trafficking grossly negates on gains Malawi has made since becoming a democracy in 1993.

Anti-human trafficking laws

Osman said all Malawians need to actively participate in looking out for victims of trafficking who she said can be found within Malawi in homes, farms or streets working as domestic workers, estate tenants or prostitutes.

“The job must not end at just finding them. We need to place ourselves in a position to then help these victims to get out of their slave-like conditions, be rehabilitated and then integrated back into society,” she said.

And panelists from Malawi Human Rights Commission, Malawi Law Commission and the Parliament, at a public discussion in Lilongwe, agreed that human trafficking, both internal and international, is widespread, mostly due to high instances of poverty, especially among girls and women.

Assistant Chief Law Reform Officer at the Malawi law Commission, Chiza Nyirongo, said there are various laws, among them the Penal Code, Immigration Act, Employment Act and Corrupt Practices Act which are currently used in Human Trafficking cases because each of them deals with some aspects of human trafficking, but added that the country remains without a specific anti-trafficking law.

The public discussion was organised by the NCA in collaboration with the Free Expression Institute and attended by over 100 participants, among them students, human rights activists, religious leaders and members of the general public.

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