Early this month, Malawians witnessed a historic march in protest against gender-based violence (GBV) which has exposed apses in the way police work.
Some commentators criticise the police for not immediately arresting a protestor carrying a placard which they deemed offensive.
The law enforcers placed themselves between a rock and a hard place by walking close to the controversial placard as if they were blindfolded.
The hot debate is whether it was right to display the placard said to be explicit and insulting the modesty of women.
Interestingly, the debate only surfaced after the arrest, not at the starting point.
The burning issue is: were police officers at the march illiterate or blindfolded not to read what was written on the contentious placard?
Or was it their indifference to do with the language used?
This brings into question the powers and roles of the police who accompany marchers.
Are they mandated to censor the messages on placards, stickers and T-shirts?
They need to be conversant with the laws of Malawi. It is amazing how they suddenly woke up to realise the poster nearby was off. This could be a sign of incompetence if not negligence.
Questions are limitless, but the country can do better by addressing the lapses haunting the police service instead of wasting time and resources on arresting activists.
These police officers also ensure law and order during football matches.
Their delayed response to the so-called explicit poster could be a signal that the arrest was remote-controlled by some superiors after noticing that the officers on duty were ignorant of the law or negligent.
Some of the justifications for the arrest seem loose as the security agency is silent on some cultural shocks broadcast by national TVs and radio stations.
Ironically, some of the unpalatable terms have gained root in certain religious gatherings and communities.
Nowadays, mentions of sanitary pads, menstruation, libido, circumcision, sexual organs, abortions and condoms are no longer taboos.
Surprisingly, some want to condemn the anti-GBV placard on the pretext that Malawi is a God-fearing nation.
Malawi is not. No wonder, what we are exposed to on radio and TV revolt against the prized morality of the so-called God-fearing nation of ours.
It must be appreciated that the march was about concerns over increasing gender-based violence across the country.
The vice, which was eclipsed by the debate over one placard, is appalling and not uncommon in some homes, schools, workplaces and communities.
It happens even in churches.
Focusing on a person carrying a placard is like shooting a messenger instead of heeding the message.
South African reggae star Lucky Dube challenged: “You can change the style of playing reggae, but you cannot stop the message.”
Security agents can confiscate a placard at the beginning of a demonstration, along the way or at the end, but they cannot mute the message.
In any case, individuals do not bring own placards.
How many of us have considered the good and negative impact most advertisements and messages we get from the media?
Think about the messages on circumcision, condoms, sanitary pads, and adverts floated by traditional healers on sexual organs, sex and body-building that have become part of life.
Between the placards in marchers’ hands and adverts on media outlets accessible to children, which ones insults the modesty of women and advances immorality more?
Is this not the reason the nation claps hands to politicians who use public functions to call Malawians stupid or nonsense?
And why was the nation quiet when some protestors staged the first half-naked march last year? Remember that protest against the killing of people with albinism.
GBV is illegal in Malawi, so what messages did the arresting officer want the advocate to carry? n