We have noted and are deeply saddened by the recent spate of violence against women and girls that has taken place in markets, bus depots, and streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. Violence against women is a human right violation and besides its physical and emotional consequences, it prevents women from participating meaningfully in development activities that are for the betterment of their lives, families, communities and the nation of Malawi.
Specifically, the violence is taking the form of booing, physical assaulting and stripping women naked, supposedly for wearing trousers, leggings or mini-skirts. We believe that these acts of violence against women and girls are aimed at instilling fear and intimidation in them regardless of what they put on, hence restricting women’s freedoms.
We wish to re-iterate the fact that Malawi is a democratic country whose constitution enshrines the freedom of dressing for all and freedom of movement for both men and women. Furthermore, Section 24(2) of the constitution invalidates any practice that discriminates against women, particularly sexual abuse, harassment and violence. In addition, the Government of Malawi (GoM) is party to a number of International and Regional Conventions which include Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Vienna Declaration of Human Rights.
Violence against women is a criminal act. We therefore call upon all responsible institutions including the police and the judiciary to act swiftly to arrest and prosecute all perpetrators of these unacceptable acts. We appreciate and support efforts made by civil society organisations, the Government and the Vendors Association of Lilongwe for the steps they are taking to ensure that such unacceptable acts are not repeated.