News / Africa

Stiffer Penalties Fail to Deter Domestic Violence in Malawi

Lameck Masina

Incidents of violence against women continue to dominate media headlines in Malawi, despite an eight-year-old law that has stiffened penalties. Police officials say they handle such cases on a daily basis. Advocates blame causes ranging from lenient court sentences to cultural practices.  

Malawi passed a domestic violence law in 2006, in an attempt to curb rampant incidents of violence against women and children. It imposed a maximum 14-year sentence on offenders.  
 
But eight years later, domestic violence continues to dominate caseloads of the Malawi Police Service's Victim Support Unit. The cases include disfigurement and mutilation.

“Such cases are reported almost on daily basis. The minor ones are sorted out right away at the VSU [Victim Support Unit], while those with criminal element are referred to the court,” says Mable Nsefula, deputy national spokesperson for the Malawi Police.
 
Cases withdrawn

She says between January and June this year, police handled about 6,900 cases of gender-based violence, most of them brought by wives against their husbands.

Nsefula says the worrying development is that many women withdraw their cases.

“Many women would come today that they have been beaten by their husbands but tomorrow, maybe many of them are threatened by relatives who may say ‘you see your husband has now been arrested who will support you..’ while others just do voluntarily and they just say, ‘I am withdrawing the case,” she said.

David Odali, executive member of the steering committee of Men for Gender Equality Now, an advocacy group that sensitizes men to stop violence against women, says, “We are concerned that the incidences of violence against women, which we call gender based violence, continues to rise in the country despite our efforts. We think this is so because of several factors: For example there are some men who believe that they are superior and they use the strength they have over women, when resolving family dispute.”
 
Court system failure

Odali says a contributing factor is lenient and inconsistent penalties handed out by the courts.

“You will find that the magistrate’s court which has a jurisdiction to slap perpetrators up to [a maximum sentence] of 14 years sentence, can only give the perpetrator three years. We are not happy with such lenient sentences because they don’t deter potential perpetrators of the violence against women and girls,” he said.  

However, Emma Kaliya with Malawi's Gender Coordinating Network says the number of reported cases of domestic violence does not mean they are increasing.  

“Nowadays people have had a lot of awareness. They know when the wrong things are happening, they simply say, ‘this is wrong you can’t simply do this,’ because they are aware that when violence is happening you need to report.  Therefore, when you start comparing things, you would see that there is a big difference with the way we used to live before when we’re just keeping quiet,” said Kaliya.

Some Malawians blame the women themselves for the violence against them. Rising feminism, they say, prompts women to challenge their husbands, leading to family conflicts.

But Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender Mary Shawa rejects this.

“The most common violence with the women perpetrate against men is denying their conjugal rights. It is the highly reported violence and that particular violence is what results in women being battered being hacked and so forth,” she said.

Shawa says, in addition to the law, the government is working on various programs to address the problem. These include economic empowerment for women and promotion of girls’ education.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs