Fourteen teenage school girls in Malawi on Tuesday launched a legal challenge against a controversial court decision to punish them over pregnancies, including jailing some of the girls’ parents.
Nyasa Times reported that in April 2016, a primary school in Nkhata Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi gave one-year suspensions to several students aged 13 and 14.
The boys who impregnated them were also suspended.
Magistrate Alexander Gomba heard how 16 boys at Hoho secondary school in Chintheche impregnated the 16 girls just four weeks into the new term.
The girls were also referred to a magistrate court which fined each of them K10, 000 ($14).
Students who failed to pay were imprisoned, along with their parents, and were freed only after paying the fine.
The case was brought to court by a child protection NGO, Maranda Child Protection Committee.
But the teenage girls are seeking judicial review on the case.
“We are asking for a review of the strange orders imposed by a lower court that all pregnant girls be sent to prison,” Victor Gondwe, a lawyer representing the girls and their parents, told AFP.
He said it was “quite strange and awkward to criminalise pregnancy.”
“You don’t get imprisoned for the acts of others,” the lawyer said by telephone from the northern town of Mzuzu, the nearest to Nkhata Bay, where the High Court heard the case.
Laws in Malawi, a deeply impoverished country, stipulate that pregnant school girls be suspended from classes for one year.
Earlier, the Magistrate had charged the boys who impreginated the girls with defilement as the girls looked younger than 18 years which could have taken them to jail.
However, the head teacher John Msowoya told the court that the girls were all 18 years old, saving the boys from going to jail for defilement.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :