Two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have reported Malawi to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child for exposing girls to trafficking for sexual exploitation through poor implementation of anti-trafficking laws.
The complaint, submitted yesterday on the Day of the African Child by international women’s rights NGO Equality Now and its Malawian partner People Serving Girls at Risk (PSGR) https://peopleserving.webs.com/>, outlines how the Malawi Government has violated articles of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. It also seeks to hold government to account for its failings.
PSGR executive director Caleb Ng’ombo said the filing of the complaint is an important step towards holding government accountable for upholding women and girls rights.
He said: “Sexual exploitation and trafficking have blighted the lives of thousands of women and girls across Malawi. Today’s landmark filing is an important step towards holding the Malawian State accountable for upholding the rights of women and girls.”
Ng’ombo further called for the need for government to increase funding and to facilitate awareness within communities, law enforcement and the Judiciary on sex trafficking.
On her part, Equality Now’s End Sexual Exploitation Programme global lead Tsitsi Matekaire urged the Malawi Government to do more to ensure that laws are effectively implemented.
She said: “The criminal justice system needs to respond better to the realities and requirements of trafficking survivors, including safeguarding them against further exploitation and making support services readily available.”
The two NGOs state that victims of sex trafficking in Malawi are being failed by the country’s criminal justice system.
The Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare yesterday asked for a questionnaire which was yet to be responded to by press time at 9pm.
Malawi’s Trafficking in Persons Act of 2015 provides for the prevention and elimination of trafficking in persons. Government has also ratified regional and international human rights instruments.
The complaint submitted yesterday centres on a girl who was aged 16 when she was lured from her rural village with a false promise of legitimate work, but ended up trafficked into prostitution within Malawi.
With support from PSGR and Equality Now, the girl, identified by the pseudonym Maggie, filed a case in court, but it has been ongoing for over four years now, beset by a series of inordinate delays and mishandling by State actors, including police, prosecutors, magistrates, and others in the criminal justice chain, according to the complaint.
On June 13 2022, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime and the Malawi Police Service uncovered human trafficking networks operating within Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, where girls and women aged between 12 and 24 from Ethiopia, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo were among those rescued.