Joyce is a 35-year-old single woman. Childless and no boyfriend, she counts 2017 as the fourth year since divorce.
While she admits that it gets lonely sometimes, she says there is not a single moment in her life now she could give to be part of her ex-husband.
“I choose being alone a million times over him. I walked out! And the world didn’t end. My heart didn’t stop beating. Life continued for me and for everyone. It makes me cry with pride and gratitude that I finally made the right decision,” she says.
Her only regret is that it took her seven years to claim her life back.
“I still feel angry at myself for all the useless ideologies that held me back. This life is not a rehearsal. We will not live it again. I don’t care what you think you did to deserve it. You can NEVER deserve abuse. Make it stop,” she advises.
In 2013, the United Nations reported that almost half of African women experience physical or sexual violence compared with 35 percent globally.
The recent Malawi Health and Demographic Survey shows that Malawian women aged between 15 to 49 experience physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.
Despite the existence of laws such as the Gender Equality Act that criminalise sexual harassment and harmful practices against women; the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act that tackles intimate partner and domestic violence, and the Childcare and Protective Justice Act, violence against vulnerable groups in communities continues to arise.
Human rights lawyer Habiba Osman believes that most people do not report cases of violence, but with the emergence of social media and other platforms including WhatsApp, people are free to circulate cases of violence faster and family members can use others to share information of those being abused.
She cites the cases of the woman who was brutally harmed by her husband and that of the woman stabbed to death by her former lover.
The human rights lawyer advises that the culture of silence in Malawi must be tackled to allow victims report cases of violence.
“Pressure and stigma from community and family members cause victims not to report cases of violence. This is a culture of impunity that we must all break. All in all, the rising number of reported cases of violence means the media is doing its job,” she said.
Osman further notes that Malawi has done well to pass laws such as the Domestic Violence Act, Gender Equality Act, Penal Code and Trafficking in Persons Act among the many gender related laws that talk of equality for women and their protection to enjoy human rights, because chiefs have began using the laws to create their own bylaws.
However, she notes that the problem of impunity remains as people think violence is a domestic matter which calls for the need to ensure the enforcement of laws by police and courts that have shown lenience on domestic violence or intimate partner violence.