Malawi government has said it is progressing well on human rights issues, according to state of the human rights in the country presented by Chief State Advocate, Pacharo Kayira at 57th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights held in Banjul, Gambia.
State parties to the African Charter on human and peoples’ rights, including Malawi, have the obligations to submit reports every two years to update the commission on their promotion and protection mandate of human and peoples’ rights in their respective countries.
However, after 25 years of non-compliance to her obligations to the commission, Malawi submitted its maiden report in 2013, and this was the first time for Malawi government to appear before the commission for the discussions and review of its report.
In April 2015, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu presented Malawi’s initial report which outlined both successes and challenges.
Highlighting what has happened since Tembenu’s presentation; Kayira told the commission that the major activity has been the development of Malawi’s National Human Rights Action Plan 2016-2020.
“The plan belongs to the people of Malawi, and it is our intention that it is a true reflection of the collective ideals, hopes and dreams of our people. The Plan will build on Malawi’s solid human rights framework as provided for in the Constitution, various legislation and policies,” said Kayira.
He said the Plan has been divided into thematic areas which include civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, child rights, rights of women, gender equality, international cooperation, rights of vulnerable groups, sexual and reproductive health rights.
Kayira reported that in terms of governance institutions, the latest cohort of commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission were recently appointed by President Peter Mutharika, saying the Commission remains a significant player in the promotion and protection of human rights in Malawi as provided for in the Constitution and the Human Rights Commission Act.
“Government recognises this role and will ensure that the Commission is working in a conducive environment in line with its mandate,” he said.
Citizenship law reform
He informed the Gambia forum that the Malawi Law Commission has a mandate to lead the process of law reform and that it has several special commissions which are looking to reform the law in relation to enjoyment of specific human rights.
“On the Right to freedom of discrimination and right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law, the Law Commission has since carried out some preliminary research with respect to the review of the Citizenship Act,” said the Chief State Advocate.
According to Kayira, it is planned that the review process should commence in earnest in 2016.
“The aim is to review the Act with the view to remove certain aspects of the law which tend to discriminate against women on the ground of gender and marital status and thus accord equality of women to men on all matters of loss or acquisition of Malawi citizenship by themselves or their spouses.
“Among other things, the Law Commission will be considering section 9 of the Citizenship Act which deals with the Malawi citizenship of foreign husbands of women citizens of Malawi.”
He explained that the effect of this section is that it prevents foreign husbands of women citizens of Malawi from acquiring Malawi citizenship. The law, however, allows foreign women married to men citizens of Malawi acquire Malawi citizenship.
Right to life
On the right to life the Law Commission is currently reviewing the Witchcraft Act with the aim of modernizing the law.
Kayira said on the right to Liberty and Security of Persons the special Law Commission on the Review of the Prisons Act, the special Law Commission is carrying out a comprehensive review of the Act with the aim of proposing the enactment of a new prison legislation that emphasizes the observance of human rights in the treatment of prisoners.
He said the Commission has been meeting in plenary and has compiled a draft Report of its tentative findings and recommendations in readiness for further consultations. It is expected that the review process will be completed no later than April 2016.
The special Law Commission on the Development of Legislation on Spent Convictions commenced its work in earnest in September, 2015. The rationale for spent convictions scheme is to give effect to the principle that persons who have been convicted of offences should not suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives.
“The other effect of spent convictions is that it prevents discrimination on the basis of criminal past. It is acknowledged that discrimination on the basis of criminal record deprives an individual of independence and livelihood. It also reduces the potential contribution of that individual to the economy and diminishes the pool of labour and skills available to employers and society at large,” said Kayira.
Kayira said legislation on spent convictions will therefore remove the stigma that attaches to persons convicted of offences and the prejudice those persons suffer, for instance, when applying for jobs, permits, visas and other matters.
On the right to best attainable health, Kayira said the special Law commission on the review of the Public Health Act is continuing with the review process.
“The main aim of the review is to modernize the law to ensure that it is compliant with the Constitution and applicable international law, in particular recent developments in matters of delivery and regulation of public health,” he said.
Kayira informed that the Report containing findings and recommendations will be submitted to Government in the course of the calendar year of 2016.
‘CSOs are partners’
In terms of engagement with civil society organizations, Kayira said Malawi government recognizes them as a key partner in the promotion and protection of human rights.
“This is evidenced by the involvement of CSOs in the drafting of all our state party reports, Universal Periodic Review report and subsequent implementation plan,” he said.
Kayira said CSOs have also been involved in the drafting of the National Human Rights Action Plan and will monitor its implementation alongside the Human Rights Commission.
“CSOs are partners in specific human rights issues such as implementation of gender related laws, implementation of anti-human trafficking laws, criminal justice programs such as pre-trial detention, diversion of minor cases, and improvement of conditions in prisons among others.”
He said the Constitution and relevant legislation provide for an enabling environment for the operations of CSOs in Malawi.
“We can therefore state that CSOs are to operate in the country and their partnership and engagement with the Government is robust,” said Kayira.
Meanwhile, Kayira affirmed Malawi’s commitment to continually engage with human rights bodies at global, continental and regional levels and also to clear the state party reporting backlog by the end of this year.
Malawi, he said, is also continuously considering the possibility of ratification of various human rights instruments.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :