Ensuring access to justice for survivors of sexual and gender based violence in Malawi
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PETITION TO THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE, RODNEY JOSE, TO TAKE CONCRETE ACTION ON SEXUAL AND GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE EXPERIENCED BY WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN MALAWI
- THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT AND CABINET;
- THE MINISTER OF GENDER, CHILDREN, DISABILITY AND SOCIAL WELFARE;
- THE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND INTERNAL SECURITY;
- THE MALAWI HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
We, the Women Lawyers Association of Malawi, alongside the Malawi Law Society and in collaboration with a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), are shocked, disturbed and deeply concerned by details of the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, which happened during a period when she was wrongfully and illegally remanded at Chesepo Police Unit in Mponela, supposedly over an altercation at school. This case represents one of the most heinous failures of the systems put in place to protect women and girls from sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and particularly in this case, the systems that must protect children in conflict or in contact with the law.
This is a travesty in a democratic constitution with an elaborate Bill of Rights and founding principles that list the rights of children as paramount. Furthermore, Malawi as a signatory to international instruments that guarantee the protection of the rights of a child has promised her people that it recognizes ‘the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed a penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth’ (Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 40). The case in Mponela is a violation of those protections guaranteed to children - the most vulnerable of our citizens.
Malawi is also party to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Maputo Protocol, the SADC Protocol on Gender and has put in place national legislation and policies aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of adolescent girls and young women - as some of the most vulnerable members of our society and those most in need of protection. We are therefore appalled by the systemic, institutionalised and continued failure to protect women and children from sexual and gender-based violence as evidenced by the frequent and horrific reports of women and girls being subjected to untold levels of violence at the hands of their intimate partners, male family members, teachers, police officers, employers, and peers.
We read in the papers and reports of these many injustices but rarely see concrete action being taken to ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that survivors are rehabilitated through access to a wide range of psychosocial support that is necessary to ensure their path to recovery and full reintegration in society.
As Malawians, we are disappointed that the Inspector General, the highest office in the Malawi Police Services that is responsible for the safety and security of all citizens, has yet to publicly address this disgusting atrocity that has been committed on a child while in police custody. Nor have any steps been taken to ensure that the investigation and any prosecution thereafter will occur without instilling further fear and repeatedly victimising the traumatised girl and her family. Worse still, we have it on good authority that the family have endured further stress in the intimidatory manner in which they have been questioned and had their intentions challenged while seeking justice for their child.
Moved by this horrific sexual assault of a 14 year old girl whilst she was wrongfully and illegally held overnight in police custody, the undersigned organizations are petitioning your offices with the intention of achieving the following:
- HIGHLIGHTING the monstrous levels of sexual and gender-based violence that adolescent girls and young women undergo in Malawi and demand that the Government of Malawi step up its efforts to prevent such incidences and protect vulnerable
- REMINDING the government of the anti GBV petition submitted to the Government in September 2017 by Civil Society Organizations
- FOCUSING public attention on the occurrence and subsequent actions that will be taken to prosecute and bring to justice the perpetrator(s) of a vicious sexual assault on a young girl at a police station in Mponela;
- RECOGNISING that an independent inquiry and investigation has been launched into the events leading up to and following the sexual assault of this young girl;
- DEMANDING that action should be taken upon the officers and any other parties that were involved in processing and enabling the incarceration of a minor for alleged school/disciplinary related matters;
- FURTHER DEMANDING that ALL connected officers should be suspended from duty pending the outcome of this inquiry;
- DEMANDING that there be deliberate steps taken to raise awareness to law enforcement officers especially the police about their duty to fairly investigate complaints, prosecute matters and protect victims of sexual violence and their witnesses in the conduct of prosecution.
We therefore petition your office Sir, to call attention to the harm and abuse suffered by this girl, the injury caused on her body and the trauma suffered by a child whose alleged wrong did not justify incarceration.
Signed by the following organizations.
Women Lawyers Association of Malawi –(WLA)
· Action Aid Malawi
· Activista Youth Network
· Apause Organisation
· Centre for Alternatives for Victimized Women and Children (CAVWOC)
· Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)
· Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance (CHREAA)
· Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP)
· Eye of the Child, Malawi
· Family Rights, Elderly and Child Protection (FRECHIP)
· Gender Support Programme (GSP)
· Girls Empowerment Network
· Girls Not Brides Malawi
· Global Hope Mobilisation (GLOHOMO)
· Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)
· Lilongwe High School
· Malawi Council of Churches (MCC)
· Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre (MHRRC)
· Malawi Law Society –(MLS)
· Media Advocates for the Advancement of Child Rights (MAACR)
· Men For Gender Equality Now (MEGEN)
· NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGOGCN)
· OXFAM Malawi
· Professional Women’s Network in Malawi
· The Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls (CEWAG)
· Ufulu Wanga
· Youth Initiative for Sustainable Development (YISD)
· Youth Net and Counselling –YONECO
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