Women petition against violence

Scores of women from diverse backgrounds, including civil society organisations (CSOs) and politics, staged a peaceful march on Tuesday to denounce political violence against women.

The march started from Mchinji Road Roundabout near Crossroads Hotel and ended at the Lilongwe District Commissioner’s office where they presented a petition to the Office of the President and Cabinet and Malawi Police Service.

Some of the women hoist placards during their peaceful march

The march was spiced with dance moves, chants and, in some cases, wailing. The women said the gestures symbolised their cry in the wake of the disgrace and pain being inflicted by perpetrators of violence.

Most of the participants were dressed in black and white T-shirts specially designed for the event. Yet others wore ordinary clothes.

En route to the District Commissioner’s office, the women stopped at some points to dance and deliver their messages using the public address system mounted on a pickup truck.

Some of the women also painted their faces in black, looking like snipers in a special military force.

Notable figures who participated in the march included Lilongwe City Council Deputy Mayor Juliana Kaduya, Gender Coordinating Network (GCN) chairperson Barbara Banda, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) executive secretary David Nungu, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo and Women’s Caucasus in Parliament  chairperson Jessie Kabwila. Women from different political parties, including the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), were also in attendance.

The petition contained specific demands to duty-bearers, including President Peter Mutharika, Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose and Minister of Gender, Children and Disability and Social Welfare Cecilia Chazama.

In the petition, the women argue that the cases of violence, especially against women, undermines the President’s status as a HeForShe champion, saying: “Having sworn to protect and uphold the Constitution, Mr President we want your visible, tangible action and protection of women in politics.”

Mutharika last week condemned the cases of violence, but fell short of condemning suspected DPP youth cadets accused of perpetrating the violence on members of opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party.

In messages inscribed on placards, the women said it was hypocrisy to undress them as it happened to a UTM Party member in Mangochi and expect the womenfolk to vote for the predominantly male presidential aspirants in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.

Females make the majority of registered voters at 3.8 million out of 6.8 million. The youth, at 3.7 million—2.1 females and 1.6 million males—form a majority demographic group at 54 percent of total registered voters.

Malawi Police Service has come under fire, especially from opposition parties, CSOs and Malawi Law Society, for turning a blind eye to cases of political violence notably against the opposition sympathisers

In the past two weeks, the country registered a number of political violence cases, including the assault of Mulanje South legislator and UTM director of youth Bon Kalindo, attack on UTM members including Veronica Katanga who was ordered to take off her party regalia, assault of MCP supporter Edward Govati in Blantyre and the torching of MCP flags in Mangochi. n

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