This month the taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation ignited a wave of social media outrage after a guest analyst on a talk show commented that victims of rape enjoy the abuse.
The comment, reported by journalist Idriss Ali Nassah, is symptomatic of the views that blame the victim and allow cases of sexual violence including by authorities to go unpunished, such as the recent case of some 17 girls and women allegedly raped by police during a protest march.
The rapes are believed to be by police seeking revenge for the death of a fellow officer during post-election unrest marred by allegations of vote-rigging and most recently the discovery of bribes offered to judges overseeing a legal challenge to the re-election of President Peter Mutharika.
The incidents were detailed in a 62-page report by Malawi’s Ombudsman Martha Chizuma and Law Commissioner Rosemary Kanyuka yet no action has been taken by authorities to detain suspects.
“Some of the survivors were raped right in the presence of their children some of whom are able to recount the incident,” the report said.
Last week, lawyers with the Women Lawyers Association of Malawi announced that suits would be filed against police for failure to investigate sexual crimes.
Mphatso Iphani, a spokesperson for the lawyers’ group asked why three months since the alleged attacks, “no concrete action has been taken, despite the sheer amount of evidence that the girls and women were assaulted”.
“We will deal with anybody raping,” declared Jessie Kabwila, former lecturer at the University of Malawi, adding that if the court makes an unfair judgment, “this country will smell smoke.” For those remarks, Kabwila was arrested on Jan. 13 for using words “calculated or likely to incite violence.”
Other remarks over the airwaves that demean women include a rap song by singer Mwiza Chavura titled “Rape” that began and ended with disturbing screams of a woman and a chainsaw heard in the background. It brought an apology by the hip hop community saying (Chavura) does not represent what they were about.
Meanwhile, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said completion and release of their report could be delayed lacking cooperation of the victims during the interrogation.
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