Gender and human rights activists are piling pressure on President Peter Mutharika to withdraw the appointment of commissioners for the sixth cohort of Malawi Human Rights Commissioners (MHRC), on the basis that only one of the seven appointed is a woman.
Bertha Sefu is the only woman among the seven. Others are Baldwin Chiyamwaka, Justin Dzonzi, Benedicto Kondowe, Dalitso Kubalasa, Steven Nkoka, and Reverend Patrick Semphere.
Immediately after the appointment on August 17, the NGO Gender Coordinating Network (NGO-Gcn) and the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), wrote Mutharika requesting him to postpone swearing in of the new commissioners and conduct an investigation into how the appointment process was done.
They argued Mutharika flouted Section 11(1) of the Gender Equality Act which compels public service appointments to be on a 60-40 percent basis between men and women.
Two weeks after the query, Mutharika is yet to respond, and the activists say the issue remains a concern and needs to be addressed.
In a statement issued toda—jointly written by NGO-Gcn, CHRR and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), the activists said they are still waiting for Mutharika’s response.
“We propose the withdrawal of the nominations and that a new process starts all over again to include two more women from the existing list. Section 12 of the Gender Equality Act is crystal clear that where 60-40 ratio between men and women has not been complied, there should be compliance of the same.
“Otherwise why did we have the Gender Equality Act that cannot be respected?” queried the activists.
They also described the issue as damaging to the image of Malawi and Mutharika at international level.
Read the statement: “Women’s Rights and Gender Equality are serious matters, we have made positive progress in so many ways and this should not be derailed by the decisions of few individuals.”
Earlier, human rights lawyer, Chrispin Sibande said the appointments violated the spirit of the Constitution and aspirations of the nation in achieving gender equality.
Said Sibande: “One wonders why this law was not followed. There cannot be any justification in ignoring and removing women in appointments.
“The situation we have now is that the announced names are violating the Gender Equality Act. I would blame technical people who were dealing with seeking nominations for not properly advising the Law Commissioner, Ombudsperson and the President of Malawi.”
Malawi is signatory to a number of human rights instruments on women’s rights and gender equality.
They include Convention on Elimination of All Forms Discrimination (CEDAW), African Protocol on Women’s Rights and SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
Mutharika was also recently appointed a champion of HeforShe campaign at global level by UN Women.