Leader of the Opposition in parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has added his weight to the growing calls for serious remedial action against rising cases of sexual assault across Malawi.
In a statement released on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, Nankhumwa says Malawi finds itself at a critical juncture with regard to its social and economic progress, when the dark vices of rape, defilement, general gender-based violence (GBV) and incest have been increasing at an alarming rate.
“Indeed, we cannot be bystanders and watch our country slowly slide into a cesspool of sadism and social decay. As Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, I feel obliged to lend my weight to the growing calls that something tangible must be done to stop these barbaric acts and arrest this obviously sad situation,” reads the statement in part.
Nankhumwa says that although there are laws in Malawi that provide for remedies against sexual assault and GBV offences, there is more that needs to be done within the justice system to adequately deter these offences.
He proposes that the existing laws must be amended to provide for more stringent measures against sex offenders, which would include increased punishment for convicts such as mandatory death penalty for those convicted of raping underage girls.
“Death sentence must be non-negotiable for rapists of girls less than 16 years and that the minimum punishment in rape cases of women must be increased to rigorous imprisonment of 30 years imprisonment without parole.
“I, therefore, wish to encourage government and all relevant stakeholders, especially the police and judiciary, to explore and facilitate measures for speedy investigations and trial of rape, defilement and GBV cases,” he says, adding that the time limit for investigation of such cases must be within one month and that the deadline for completion of trial in such cases should be within one month.
Nankhumwa also suggests that the disposal of appeals in sexual offence cases must be within a period of two months.
The statement says statistics show that there were 1293 rape cases in 2018 including sexual assault against children. There were 1440 cases in in 2019 while 1738 cases were recorded in 2020.
“The number of cases has been increasing over the past three years. For example, there were 182 rape cases in January this year whilst 237 cases were recorded in October. Lilongwe recorded the highest number of cases at 234 while Ntcheu recorded 56 cases.
“Official statistics indicate that Malawi ranks as 12th highest in the world in terms of child marriages. Our country is number 145 out of 188 on the Gender inequality index (GII); 9% of our girls are married before they reach the age of 15, and 46% of girls are married before they reach the age of 28,” says Nankhumwa who also serves as opposition DPP’s Vice President (South).
Nankhumwa encourages Malawians to quickly report cases of sexual assault and GBV for action.
“Parents, guardians and teachers must also assume a leading role in providing the necessary protection for children against sexual molesters and predators, as evidence shows that most perpetrators are people related or close to the victims,” reads the statement.
He also observes that there are increasing cases of sexual abuse within the workplace where seniors demand sex from unsuspecting women workers in exchange for work related favours.
“I also wish to encourage victims of such sexual abuse at the work place to be bold enough and report such shameful and immoral conduct to the police and relevant authorities,” he says.
Nankhumwa encourages the government, NGOs, MPs, the Faith Community and the academia, among others, to maximize rape prevention, sexual assault and GBV awareness campaigns across the country “so that this worrying trend is arrested once and for all”.
A gender and governance expert based at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, Bernadette Malunga said there is need for a coordinated approach to eliminate sexual assaults on children.
She said: “We have clear laws in place, penal and civil laws which if implemented can eliminate sexual violence against children.”
Malunga, who is also a law lecturer, said despite systems to protect children being in place, they remain defective with the criminal justice system being “corrupt and too slow”.
She also said most people still have patriarchal and sexist views about the proper conduct of women and girls which derails efforts to protect the girl child from abuse.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :