Malawi women battle indiscriminate laws despite gender strides

Malawi women who are sexually assaulted or trafficked continue to face serious challenges as they navigate  criminal laws and law enforcement policies because the country’s statutes do not recognize their predicament as offences.

According to the SADC Gender Protocol 2013 Barometer, progress on passing human trafficking and sexual harassment legislation has been slow.

“Only ten SADC countries have Human trafficking laws and eight have sexual harassment legislation. There is still widespread resistance to recognizing sexual harassment as a crime,” the Barometer noted.

SADC member states have now ratified the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that was signed in 2008 in South Africa.

Chiyamwaka: Implicated
Chiyamwaka: Sadc gender protocol will be difficult to implement

Malawi statutes do not recognize sexual assault and human trafficking, a development that has seen Courts either passing lenient sentences or acquitting perpetrators.

“The SADC Gender protocol will be difficult to implement if Malawi’s laws are not in tandem with it,” Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) National Coordinator Baldwin Chiyamwaka said.

Chiyamwaka said in the absence of compatible laws Courts have a tough time prosecuting offenders.

Malawi President Dr Joyce Banda formally launched the Barometer on Thursday, on the eve of the Heads of State Summit in the Capital City Lilongwe.

Action Aid Women’s Coordinator Wezi Moyo said Malawi must build on the gains made in the gender sector by taking advantage of the growing appointment of women in decision making position to push for laws that protect women from gender based violence, sexual assault or Human trafficking.

“At the end of the men it’s a collaborative effort because we need men to join in this fight as well,” Moyo said.

However, Gender Links Executive Director Colleen Lowe Morna, who also heads the Alliance, said that since her Alliance started tracking the presence of women in key decision-making position, statistics have not been impressive.

Morna said there is need to push for more women representation both at national and local levels arguing that results from the last set of elections in the SADC were disappointing.

“The overall percentage of women MPs in the region initially stood at 21 percent rose to 24 then 25 and is back at 24 percent. Cabinet appointments for women have also regressed,” she noted.

Morna said that apart from other gains the 2013 Barometer carries good news on HIV for the first time.

“AIDS related deaths in the region have reduced by 32 percent since 2001 due to the expansion of the ARV therapy, in some seven SADC countries PMTCT is higher that 80 percent,” she said.

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