Kaliati calls on Police to arrest perpetrators of Gender-based violence

Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare minister, Patricia Kaliati has issued a desperate appeal to law enforcers in the country to take matters of gender violence against women seriously and apprehend all culprits involved in gender-based violence.

Kaliati made the appeal during a two-day meeting, organised by the AU Commission in collaboration with UN Women, had delegates from ministries of Gender and Women’s Affairs and Justice, and civil society organisations held in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

“I urge all the law enforcers, especially the Malawi Police to treat gender based violence matters with utter seriousness and bring to book all perpetrators. We have talked about it long enough and now we have to act.

Kaliati fires a warning shot-Pic by Roy Nkosi

“There is no place for gender-based violence in this age and era where people must respects one another regardless of gender. Every human being is equal to everyone. There is no-one above or below the other.

“There is no weaker gender for we all all human beings and if anyone goes against God’s law who created everyone equally and against the law of the land and anyone who breaks the law needs to be arrested and face justice,” said Kaliati.

The gender minister added: “We are asking the partners if they can meet all women legislators so that they can popularise it, empower girls in education, but also sexual and reproductive health rights. They will have a voice which will lead to ending the violence.”

The Government of Malawi has shown great commitment to eliminate Gender Based Violence. Malawi is party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi also prohibits discrimination of persons in any form and obliges the State to promote gender equality.

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Executive Secretary, Habiba Osman in an interview agreed with Kaliati’s plea that there is indeed a greater need to bring to book anyone found abusing women.

Osman, who is a Human Rights Lawyer and Women and children rights advocate, said: “Gender-based violence is on the increase and t is really sad that there are still some men out there who find pleasure in abusing women especially in marriages and other love related relationships.

“Gender violence is a criminal offence under the laws of Malawi and therefore any one found breaking that law must not be treated with kid gloves but must be taken to task and make them face the long of arm of the law.”

She then encouraged women in the country to report to the police any man who abuse them to the police because failing to report a crime is a crime adding that protecting criminals and hiding a crime is a more dangerous criminal act than those who commit it.

The Malawi Government has also adopted several policies and legal frameworks to address gender-based violence issues, including the National Gender Policy and National Action Plan to Combat Gender Based Violence in Malawi (2014-2020); Gender Equality Act, Domestic Violence Act, Deceased Estate: Wills and Inheritance Act among others. Although, this is the case, Sexual and Gender Based Violence remains a serious problem in Malawi.

‘Ending gender violence’

In the same vein, the African Union (AU) has urged Malawi and seven other countries implementing the Spotlight Initiative to apply practical solutions in ending violence against women and girls (Evawg) and harmful practices.

AU Commission director of health, humanitarian affairs and social development Cisse Mariama Mohamed said this in a statement issued on June 18 on the sidelines of a two-day Annual Continental Coordination Platform for the eight member States.

Mohamed emphasized the need for the countries namely, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, to take a holistic approach to shift social norms and narratives that contribute to gender violence.

She said: “Let us all join hands as we are implementing this initiative to stop this behaviour of violence against girls and women by embracing the potential of male involvement and by mothers teaching their sons and daughters that violence must not be tolerated or seen as normal.”

AU Commission’s Women, Gender and Youth Directorate acting director Victoria Maloka observed that the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened gender-based violence.

The Spotlight Initiative is run by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) with the aim of ending gender violence and harmful practices.

In an interview, UN resident coordinator in Malawi Maria Jose Torres Macho, who recently visited some project sites in Mzimba, said there is need to bring services like protection centres closer to people so that when women and girls easily access them.

She said: “We are seeing incredible results in the number of girls that have been brought back to school from early marriages, criminal cases being taken to court and communities discussing these issues.

“If anything, the Spotlight Initiative has helped to create a space for communities and people can start making initiatives aimed at ending violence against women and girls which is fundamental for the development of Malawi.”

The Spotlight Initiative regional programme in Africa provides a regional response to addressing sexual gender-based violence, harmful practices and sexual and reproductive health and rights, with a focus on empowering women’s movements.

‘Nature and Consequences’

The United Nations estimates that 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, which may not even include emotional, financial and verbal abuse.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres describes violence against women and girls, as, “A menace which takes many forms, ranging from domestic violence to trafficking, from sexual violence in conflict to child marriage, genital mutilation and femicide, and does not only harm the individual, but also has far-reaching consequences for families and the society.”

Eliminating violence is not just an issue of rights and access to justice; but also, an accelerator of the development agenda for Malawi.

Denying the rights of women and girls, is not only wrong in itself; it has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back.

There is increasing recognition that violence against women is a major barrier to the fulfillment of human rights and a direct challenge to women’s inclusion and participation in sustainable development and sustaining peace.

Despite advances in gender equality over the last decade, Malawi ranks 145/188 on the Gender Inequality Index (GII), reflecting high levels of inequality in reproductive health, women’s empowerment, and economic activity.

Additionally, violence against women and girls and harmful practices remain serious, also, the country has a lot to do in terms of women empowerment.

Currently, out of the 193 parliamentary seats in the National Assembly, 44 seats are held by women representing 22.79%, posing a challenge to maximum representation and deliberation of women and girls’ issues.

Although the country has achieved gender parity in primary school enrolment, the transition rate of girls to secondary school in Malawi remains low and the drop-out rate high. UN findings indicate that 9% of girls in Malawi are married by 15 years while 46% are married by the age of 18, ranking Malawi as the 11th country globally with high cases of child marriage.

Much as key drivers include attitudes that accept and tolerate the practice, poverty (especially for girls in the rural areas) has resulted in girls being married off to improve family finances. In some instances, they have been given in marriage as repayment of debts.

The country is also amongst countries that have higher average rate of school years for girls than other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The available data on education in Malawi indicates that 62% of girls that enroll in standard 1 proceed to standard 5 and only 29% remain in school to standard 8, reasons being marriage, pregnancy and family responsibilities.

A study conducted to determine the nature and consequences of school violence in rural Malawi found that domestic violence disrupts schooling for both girls and boys, but in different ways: girls who had ever experienced domestic violence were 20 percent more likely to drop out, while boys were more likely to be absent.

According to the MDHS 2015-16, 38 percent of ever-partnered women aged 15-49 years experienced intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.

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