Two elderly women from Mlembe village in the area of Traditional Authority Chowe in Malawi’s southern district of Mangochi are complaining about sexual harassment they recently underwent when ‘caught’ fetching firewood by the game rangers at Liwonde National Park.
The women Akuziona Mbila and Ngayime Ndaona told Nyasa Times that they met their fate when they accompanied fellow women from the same village to the protected area where the game rangers started chasing them and were immediately caught as they were failing to run due to old age.
“We were told to remove all our clothes and ordered us to sit around the fire naked. They made the fire from the firewood they confiscated from us and burned our clothes on it,” Mbila explains.
She says while naked, the women were ordered to lift up their legs and the game rangers took their guns pointed them at the private parts. They forced the shocked and terrified elderly women to start mentioning the name of each part on their private parts.
Mbila said their earlier resistance to follow the orders was defeated when one game ranger started beating them up with the gun before ordering them to vacate the place.
She said at first they did not report the matter to anybody for fear of embarrassing themselves but stressed such incidents have been happening to most women who don’t report them for fear losing their marriages.
Meanwhile, the Youth Net and Counseling (YONECO) rights lobby group which is implementing a project on gender equality and women empowerment in the area has described the game rangers’ treatment meted out on the elderly women as inhuman and degrading by government officers.
““The conduct of game rangers is unconstitutional as our Constitution in section 19 (3) prohibits any form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
“YONECO believes that National Parks are supposed to operate within their respective legal framework that is consistent with the constitution. We are therefore teaming up with the law enforcement agencies to make sure that the perpetrators are brought to book,” says YONECO’s media officer Charles Banda in a statement made available to Nyasa Times.
Banda is also urging women in Mangochi and all other districts to immediately report to authorities when they experience any form of gender based violence.