Gender and human rights activists have faulted President Peter Mutharika for flouting some provisions of Malawi’s laws in appointing commissioners for the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
Mutharika on Tuesday appointed seven commissioners—six men and one woman—after the human rights watchdog submitted the proposed names to his office.
However, the activists have observed that he errored by appointing six men against one female without regard to gender proportions.
The activists said Mutharika flouted Section 11(1) of the Gender Equality Act which obliges public service appointments to be on a 60-40 percent basis between men and women.
Some activists, through their organisations such as NGO Gender Coordinating Network, which represents 53 non-governmental organisations and the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), have since written Mutharika requesting him to pend swearing in of the new commissioners and conduct an investigation into how the appointment process was done.
The letter, which was presented to State House on Thursday, says the appointment of only one woman was a violation of Malawi laws on gender and human rights.
Reads part of the letter: “We realise that the appointment of commissioners is governed by Section 4 of the Human Rights Commission Act. Under this section the Law Commissioner and Ombudsman have an obligation to ask organisations working on promotion and protection of human rights to make nominations.
“Section 4(2) and (3) of the same Act says the Law Commission and Ombudsman will review the names and recommend names for appointment to your office. At the same time we note that Section 11(1) of Gender Equality Act obligates appointing authority to make sure one sex is not represented more than 60 percent in the appointed team. Therefore, we submit that the Law Commission and Ombudsman were supposed to note this before giving you the list for appointment.”
The activists state that the concept of promoting women’s rights and gender equality in Malawi had been defeated with the appointment.
The activists have since asked Mutharika to stop the swearing in of the commissioners and summon the Ombudsman and Law Commission to explain why the Gender Equality Act was violated.
They have further asked Mutharika, in liason with the Law Commissioner and Ombudsman, to appoint two additional female commissioners, “under the broad interpretation of Section 3 of the Human Rights Commission Act.”
Human rights lawyer, Chrispin Sibande told Weekend Nation 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.”
But Sibande said upon observing that there were fewer women nominated, the responsible authorities were free to re-advertise or direct organisations to propose more names of women.
“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,” said Sibande.