United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator (ad interim), Benoit Thiry says the High Court’s judgement in favour of the 18 women and girls who reported incidents of rape and sexual assault by police officers in October 2019 at M’bwatalika and Mpingu in Lilongwe, is an important milestone towards the protection of survivors of sexual violence in Malawi.
Thiry said this in a press statement on Monday, adding that this is a step forward to address sexual crimes in Malawi.
He also applauded Women Lawyers Association for playing “a pivotal role in bringing the case to the attention of the High Court and reinforcing the Constitutional right of survivors of sexual violence to access justice and effective remedies for the harm that they have suffered”.
“Further to this judgement, it is now important that national authorities ensure a prompt, effective and impartial investigation so that all persons suspected of crimes in this case are subjected to criminal processes.
“Moreover, the survivors should be provided necessary support and assistance.”
Thiry furthers reiterate UN’s commitment to continue supporting the Government and the people of Malawi to uphold human rights, in particular to work together to end violence against women and girls throughout the country.
“Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace,” he said.
Meanwhile, communities in Traditional Authorities Kalumo and Chilooko in Ntchisi District have hailed village tribunals, for the role they are playing in the justice delivery system.
Village tribunals are where people access justice on minor offences right in their villages, a community member, Jennifer Leonard of Khuwi Village in the area of TA Kalumo told Malawi News Agency (MANA) Monday that the committees have proven to be effective despite the fact that most of them did not have adequate knowledge on case handling.
She was speaking on the sidelines of a capacity building training for women members of the tribunal.
“For instance, some tribunals were handling cases which are supposed to be handled by Magistrate Courts like defilement cases,” she said.
“Through this training, we have learnt that we do not have the mandate to handle such type of cases.”
She said they have been trained to report cases such as defilement and other criminal cases to the Police.
Another resident, Mercy Chinthenga from Chikhutu Village observed that in some cases, the tribunals charge fines which do not tally with the offences committed.
She described the training as an eye opener as she and her colleagues had now learnt that fines need to be charged according to the type of offence one has committed.
Malawi Human Rights Resource Centre, under its Enhancing Citizen Voice and Action in Local Governance and Development processes, organized the training which among other things was aimed at advocating for inclusion of women in the tribunals, according to its capacity development officer, Limbani Phiri.
“We are looking for adequate representation of women in these tribunals in TA’s Kalumo and Chilooko where we are implementing this project with funding from Dan Church Aid.
“We want our women to have a voice in the primary justice system,” he said.
Ntchisi First Grade Magistrate, Dorothy Kalua commended MHRRC for building the capacity of the members saying that it would go a long way in ensuring that delivery of justice is not compromised in the district.—Additional reporting by Pauline Kaude, MANA