Hon. Folks Thursday, November 25 was International Day of No Violence against Women and marked the official start of this year’s 16 Days of Activism Campaign against gender-based violence (GBV).
This year, Malawi is commemorating this event under the theme ‘Orange the World, End Violence against Women and Girls, Act Now’.
And on Thursday First Lady Monica Chakwera led Malawi in joining the rest of the world to mark the start of this campaign by, among others, urging all citizens to work together in mobilising action to protect women, girls, boys and children from any form of GBV.
As I said last week, Malawi’s inaugural commemoration for this campaign was in 2001 and since then the campaign has provided a platform for government, non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and other stakeholders to raise awareness, influence behavioural change and lobby for political commitment to end gender violence.
This event is also an important milestone in raising awareness against all forms of GBV described as a violation of human rights by the United Nations, African Union and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) human rights protocols.
But this year’s commemoration comes when the scale of gender-based violence, including premeditated sexual violence against children and infants has reached alarming levels in Malawi.
Hon. Folks, we thus choose to dwell much on sexual violence this week because it appears Malawi is now possessed by a strange spell of psychic attack that has triggered a rise in incidents of GBV, child molestation and rape which are occurring almost every second of each passing day.
There is no doubt that this country—internationally revered as the Warm Heart of Africa—has reproduced more irrational citizens that have no problem engaging themselves in acts that defy common sense.
Lately, there have been numerous incidents of men raping young girls and infants, including some shameful cases where fathers have committed incest with their own biological daughters.
Unfortunately, all this is happening in spite various local and international campaigns against sexual violence which results in severe physical, psychological and social harm.
With the rising cases of HIV and Aids, these acts have put increased risk of contracting the virus and other sexually transmitted infections among the minors, not to mention untimely pregnancies and psychological trauma.
This is why all Malawians need to enhance efforts in fighting against sexual violence which continues to occur in our communities, including homes, schools and even churches.
In spite of this, however, It is encouraging to note that some local and international organisations, including the United Nations are tirelessly strengthening global action to bridge funding gaps and ensure essential services for affected women and girls even during the Covid-19 crisis.
Hon. Folks, as the world prepares to observe 16 days of the elimination of GBV this year, it is also disheartening to note that Covid-19 has worsened the plague of sexual and other forms of violence against women and girls in most of the country’s households mainly due to various restrictions imposed on citizens by the governments in a bid to curb the spread of the global virus.
Nevertheless, I must state here that the pandemic justifies no monstrous acts against innocent children and our women by loose men in our communities.
On this note I would like to urge all citizens and organisations in the country to continue collaborating and safeguarding various local, regional and international legal frameworks designed to tackle this shameful phenomenon.
It is also encouraging to see many Malawians are now embracing GBV issues and they are coming out in the open to report some hidden GBV and sexual violence cases to police and other relevant agencies.
Honourable folks we can build this country together for future generations by defeating current bottlenecks that impede hopes for our future leaders.