The Association of Women in Media (AWOME), whose members are female media and communications personnel is worried with the increasing cases of rape and defilement in Malawi.
As we go about covering such stories, we have come across heartbreaking stories of what numerous women and girls have gone through at the hands of men who behave as if they have no control over their sexual feelings.
So many women are living with the trauma of their unfortunate experiences.
Women are generally becoming more and more helpless on these issues, even when they are supposed to be protected under both local and international legal instruments.
We have written about these ills and used our platforms to raise awareness about the escalating levels and the need to find a lasting solution. We acknowledge the fact that in some cases perpetrators have been prosecuted but obviously the punishments have not been a deterrent to other offenders.
We come to you today because the “Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development is mandated to provide policy guidance for women and child development services. This ministry was instituted with the aim of promoting the welfare and protection of women and children.”
We believe that the ministry will therefore be able to champion a long lasting solution that will see not a decrease, but an end to incidents of rape and defilement. We have confidence that the ministry will ensure the necessary enforcement of laws, policies and instruments that will free women and girls from sexual violence.
Our appeal to men:
1. Women and girls must be treated as normal and equal human beings. Every legal instrument in this country recognizes women as such, but by raping or defiling them, women and girls are implicitly told they are of lesser value and that their feelings and voices are unimportant. We are humans too.
2. Girls below the age of 18 are children, even where their bodies develop quickly. Please treat them as such. They need protection from you as their fathers, brothers, cousins or more importantly, as male adults.
3. An underage girl can never give sexual consent. As an adult male, your role is to protect her.
4. Women have the right to say no to sex with you. They are in control of their bodies, respect that!
5. This fight against rape, defilement or sexual harrassment is not only for women. We acknowledge the fact that we have so many good men out there. We want you to join us in this fight because those attacking women and girls, may be victimising your mother, sister, wife, daughter or even someone you have never met. Do the right thing, protect them all.
Our appeal to fellow women and girls:
1. We are each other’s keeper, protect your fellow women from sexual abuse. Report it.
2. Stop shielding sexual offenders. We acknowledge that its difficult when they are breadwinners, but remember that the impact of their actions on the victims can be longlasting.
3. Don’t suffer in silence, speak out. Get liberation.
4. We need the voice of every women in this fight. Join the fight.
Our demands to govt:
1. Legal review:
The punishments being metted on perpetrators of sexual violence should be tougher. We want stiffer sentences, up to life as prescribed in the penal code.
In line with the proposed punishment, that the cases are tried in the High Court
Shielding sexual offenders should also be criminalised
2. That there should be centres set up across the country for counselling of victims of sexual assaults.
As female writers, we empathise with fellow women and girls who have been victims of sexual offences in this country. We are mothers too and we have the same fears that any parent would have for the safety of their daughters.
The frequency at which we write stories about sexual offences is telling of the magnitude of this problem.
We are tired too. Our bringing these issues to light should compel everyone to do something about the situation.
We have confidence in our government leaders and through the Ministry of Gender, we hope this matter will receive the serious attention that it deserves.