Earlier this week, protestors once again took to the streets to demonstrate against sexual violence in the country. Holding true to their earlier vow that they would not stop until meaningful change is effected, the concerned women led by Women Doctors Association (WDA) gave government ministries and other stakeholders 90 days to address the issue. WDA member Bridget Msolomba Malewezi said “sexual violence cases had reached emergency levels”, shortly after submitting a petition to Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare officials at Lilongwe City Council Offices. Petitioners requested that President Lazarus Chakwera be a champion of women and girls rights. Others groups among these protestors were the Women’s Manifesto Movement and Malawi Feminists Alliance.
Image taken from The Daily Times
In Blantyre the petition was delivered to Blantyre City Council by Sibusiso Mandha of Live in Hope Network. Among the demands the WDA made to authorities include to train and employ more health workers to treat sexual violence victims and also offer psychological counselling to the affected families. According to the group, several defilement cases take time to prosecute because medical workers do not show up in the courtrooms during trials.
Through the petitions which were delivered to city council offices, the women highlighted a call for a constitutional and institutional review to ensure stiffer punishments for rapists. Part of the petition stated that “While the numbers continue to rise every day, we note and appreciate that some arrests, trials and sentencing are being effectively conducted but not the majority”, “Furthermore, not much is being done to address the root cause, nor to send an absolutely clear and strong message to Malawi men that sexual violence will not be tolerated and the consequences of such crimes will be harsh penalties”.