Ombudsman orders police to re-employ dismissed ‘wives’

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered Malawi Police Service (MPS) to re-employ four women dismissed in the course of a police training on the basis that they were married to police officers.

In the determination, the Ombudsman ruled that the dismissal of the women in 2016 was discriminatory and constituted unfair treatment.

Some female police officers seen with their male counterparts

The determination, states that MPS dismissed the women from training school because they were old and married to police officers, and that the women lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman’s office through a letter dated 11th February, 2017.

According to the women’s testimony, when they arrived at Police Training School in Limbe, they went through all recruitment processes and were let into their rooms.

While some trainees were dropped due to various reasons such as insufficient education qualifications and old age, the testimony states that the complainants passed all the tests, including medical examinations, and were deemed fit for training.

Additionally, the four were granted identity cards, provided their finger prints and opened bank accounts and were told that they had officially been employed by MPS on 22nd May, 2016.

Reads part of the testimony: “After a day, they were put in squads where they were given numbers. They started training although they were being beaten and were told its part of the training. They would keep them in line and then tell them to go to sleep and then they would beat them.

“On one of such incidents, they had beaten one of their colleagues until she got seriously injured. She was told to go to the hospital and she was asked to inform the hospital that she had fallen.”

According to the determination, one day while still training, they were called at roll-call where one of the officers said that “they were going to remove women who were married as they needed to go home and cook for their husbands.”

This happened in the evening and their colleagues contributed some money for their transport back home, according to further testimony.

Ironically, the women allege that there were other older and married women who were left behind and have since finished their training.

One of the candidates who was released for similar reasons was picked in last year’s group and has since graduated as a police officer.

“Later they stated it is because they were wives of policemen but there are others there who are also wives of policemen,” it reads further.

Now Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has determined that the women should be reinstated as there is no justification to discriminate people of same age groups based on marital status.

Reads her determination in part: “Things become worse when one considers the marital status requirement. Whilst on the face of it, the requirement may seem to apply equally across the genders, the fact of the matter is that it is largely or only women who get affected by such requirements.

There was no immediate indication from MPS on whether the service will appeal against the determination. Under Section 123 of the Constitution and Section 5 of the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman has a mandate to investigate various complaints of maladministration.

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