BLANTYRE, 15 JANUARY 2013:Rising statistics of rape and defilement of underage girls in the country have galvanisedoutraged Malawians into action. On Wednesday 16 March 2013, a petition from concerned citizens will be delivered to key stakeholders in the police and justice systems, protesting the judgment handed down in the case of a 50-year old perpetrator who sexually molested a 10-year old Dowa girl.
On 3rd January 2013, it was reported on local radio stations that First Grade Magistrate Titus Banda of Dowa Magistrates Court acquitted 50 year old Burundian Seleman Jonathan who sexually molested the 10 year old girl because "she did not feel pain when she was being molested." Further, the court said that the hospital report was not conclusive. However, police from the area say that the report clearly indicated that the girl was defiled.
“When I learned about this judgment, I felt upset that someone who should protect the child and guarantee her justice would so callously trivialise the trauma she went through,” says SteveriaKadangwe, explaining why she initiated the online petition on popular social network Facebook.
The group “Petition Against Dowa Court Ruling” has 4,861 members and the set target of 1000 signatures was exceeded by Monday 14 January after just a week of appeals for support. Malawians from all regions of the country as well as those living outside the country have voiced their support of the petition. Notable signatories to the protest include economist Prof ThandikaMkandawire and lawyer Wapona Kita.
Simultaneous presentations of the petition will be made on 16 March 2013 in Lilongwe (9am) and Blantyre (11am). Co-organisersMsSteveriaKadangweand MrMuvaSamboas well as Mr Maxwell Matewere (Executive Director of Eye of The Child) will deliver the Blantyre petitions while Mrs ZilanieNyundo and Pastor Salome Mwanza-Zagabe will make parallel presentations in Lilongwe.Intended recipients are The Attorney General/ Minister of Justice, The Director of Public Prosecutions, The Registrar of the High Court, The Chief Prosecutor of Malawi Police, The Chief Justice andThe Clerk of Parliament.
“It is important that as citizens we register our dissatisfaction with how this judgment has made a mockery of our constitution,” says co-organiser Taweni Gondwe-Xaba.
“We are encouraged by the Dowa Police’s own appeal in this matter as well as the fact that the Registrar of the High Court and the Director of Public Prosecutions are already reviewing the case files. We sincerely hope that a retrial will be the outcome,” she says, further adding, “The alternative sets an alarming precedent for the future protection of the girl child in Malawi.”
The secondary objective of the petition campaign is to raise awareness of the growing rape and defilement crisis in Malawi and get ordinary citizens to recognise that, collectively, the people have the power to make enough noise to achieve the change they seek.
“The enthusiastic response of the public to the call for signatures has made me realise that Malawians are tired of the apathetic manner in which rape and defilement cases are dealt with and would like to see some serious action taken,” Kadangwe concludes.