Malawi: Child Rights Network Condemns Achalume Cartoon in Malawi News

19 January 2020

A consortium of organizations fighting for children's rights in Malawi has condemned a cartoon in the Malawi News, which depicts an old man suggesting that he slept with a 16 year-old girl, saying 'it normalizes child rights violation'.

The consortium, Child Rights Network Now which comprises Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children's Village and World Vision International, said this in a press release dated January 16, 2020.

The consortium says the organizations are particularly concerned with the normalization of an act otherwise defined as 'defilement' under the laws of Malawi. The organizations have since called for an apology and withdrawal of the cartoon.

"As organizations that fight for women and girls' rights, we are horrified that the defilement of a minor has been normalized and seen as humorous, rather than a crime and a violation of human rights," reads part of the statement.

The statement further says that while the organizations recognize the freedom of expression, they expect better representation and portrayal of women and girls in the media, considering the role the media plays in educating and informing people.

Confirming the development, Plan International Malawi Communications and Campaigns Manager, Rodgers Siula said the organizations decided to raise the concerns because the cartoon was in bad taste.

"We noted that the cartoon in mention was insensitive and in bad taste as it justifies and reinforces the stereotypes against women and girls especially appearing in a national newspaper that commands a wide readership," Siula said.

He further said that the consortium expects the publication to withdraw the cartoon and issue an apology on the same.

"We expect a frank and honest withdrawal and apology. In addition, we would like to keep the conversation going so that the story about girls should be re-written," he said.

Commenting on the development, Times Group Editor in-Chief, George Kasakula said his publication is yet to officially receive a complaint on the cartoon, and will only act once they receive a communication.

"We have not yet received any complaint. We have mechanisms and channels in place through which people can lodge complaints regarding our publications. That way, we are able to clarify and apologize if need be, as you might have seen before," Kasakula said.

The cartoon, Achalume drawn by Haswell Kunyenje was published in the Malawi News of 28 December - 3 January. The cartoon is depicting a visibly old man telling a friend outside a clinic that he might have contracted a sexually transmitted infection from a 16 year-old he had sex with on the eve of the New Year's Day.

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