At least 312 minors have sued Population Services International (PSI) Malawi, now called Family Health Services (FHS), claiming the organisation circumcised them without consent in Phalombe.
Damson Esimey, as guardian of Enock Kachala, a minor, plus 311 others, all from Traditional Authority (T/A) Mkando in the district, have filed the civil cause number 1813 of 2023 at the Senior Resident Magistrate Court (Midima) in Limbe, Blantyre.
Private practice lawyer Dalitso Chimbe is representing all the minors.
The minors accuse PSI of conducting the procedures between 2021 and 2022 without providing adequate information that would have given the guardians informed consent to proceed with the circumcision.
According to their statement of claim dated October 2 2023, the minors are claiming damages for assault, battery, pain, suffering, disfigurement and deformity of their private parts contrary to Section 30 of the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act. They are also claiming special damages and costs.
PSI, a local organisation that implemented programmes aimed at improving lives of Malawians, conducted the circumcisions through a project known as Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC).
The statement states that on various dates between 2021 and 2022, the organisation was moving around Phalombe district with a public address system motor vehicle that was projecting and promoting its male circumcision campaign.
“The plaintiffs [minors] were enticed by the motor vehicle and its music and followed the motor vehicle or got into the motor vehicle unaccompanied by their guardians.
“The entire groups of plaintiffs were on diverse dates then taken to Migowi Health Centre in the district where the defendant had set up a facility to conduct male circumcision as per its project aforementioned,” reads the statement of claim.
Further, the statement claims the circumcision procedure was for “non-therapeutic, non-emergency, non-religious and non-cultural basis.”
The guardians argue that PSI acted negligently by failing to obtain the informed consent of parents and guardians of the minors before proceeding to circumcise the minors and, also, by failing to provide palliative care to them after the procedure.
“The plaintiffs further aver that the actions and omissions of the defendant herein amounted to breach of statutory duty owed to the plaintiffs,” reads the statement further.
In an interview this week, Chimbe said they were waiting to be served with a detailed defence from Likongwe & Company law firm representing the defendant.
“We have only been served with an affidavit of defence, stating that they intend to defend the matter,” said Chimbe.
On his part, the defendant’s lawyer Francis Kaduya confirmed his client’s intention to challenge the action as “we believe most of the claims are fraudulent”.
This is not the first time the defendant has been dragged to court over circumcision issues. Last year, the High Court in Blantyre found the organisation guilty of unlawfully conducting circumcision procedure on two minors without getting consent from their parents or guardians.
The court heard that in May 2018 the organisation took the minors at Manyowe in Blantyre to Pensulo Health Centre where they circumcised them without the knowledge of their guardians.
Since 1994, PSI Malawi, with support from the American, British and German governments has been implementing various programmes with a multi-disciplinary approach to social and behaviour change with priority health areas being HIV prevention, sexual and reproductive health and right and malaria prevention.
PSI Malawi’s interventions allowed citizens to access their choice of products on-demand.