Parents and school children in Lilongwe have singled out corruption among law enforcement agents as a major hindrance to the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) in Malawi.
A lady making a presentation at the event.-Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times The panel discussion at the event.-Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times Part of the audience at the event.-Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times
The parents and the children have also challenged that Malawi's battle against GBV will not bear fruits unless the Malawi Police Service (MPS) rise above their petty assurances of "police investigations are still underway" and take a pragmatic approach to addressing the problem.
The sentiments were made on Monday during the SheTalks GBV conference in Lilongwe.
The conference, which was part of the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, was organised by Every Girl In School Alliance (EGISA) in partnership with Plan International Malawi.
Some of the schoolgirls that attended the conference questioned the honesty and professional standing of law enforcers in taking decades to conclude investigations in GBV cases.
"There have been cases reported to the police, but in less than a day, you find the suspect is out walking freely in the same society he committed a crime. Where is your professionalism with such kind of actions?" asked a girl-child (name concealed).
In his response, the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Maclean Mguntha, assured that the police service will remain committed to discharging its duties without partiality and high levels of professionalism.
Mguntha drew the attention of the participants to the recent arrest of two police officers who are suspected to have committed rape cases in Phalombe.
"As police, we shall continue arresting police officers who do not discharge their duties as they are expected to. No one is above the law. So, be assured that the police officers, too, are subject to the law," he said.
Plan International Malawi Business Development Manager, Catherine Ball, disclosed that in Malawi, over 28 percent of women have experienced physical violence and over a quarter of women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime.
Ball further disclosed that survivors of gender based violence have difficulties in accessing justice.
"Social norms and beliefs about gender roles; and the stigma that surrounds violence, combined with a lack of knowledge and legal literacy, mean that survivors of violence face difficulties in reporting violations. Formal justice systems are often far away and expensive; access to appropriate legal representation is limited; and justice providers are not always responsive," she said.
EGISA executive director for Africa, Wilson Chivhanga, said time had come for Malawi to open up and start conversing around GBV and how they hurt the social and economic development of the country.
Chivhanga stressed that an honest talk about GBV could help Malawi find a lasting solution to the problem.