‘Speak out against abuse’

The minister made the remarks last week at Lilongwe Community Centre Ground and Cresta Hotel respectively, during the International Women’s Day Commemorations, where among, other things, she opened religious and traditional leaders’ workshops respectively. Banda referred to two recent incidents that took place in Lilongwe and Zomba where she said religious leaders and chiefs failed to exercise their roles positively. “I had a case in my office where by a traumatised 10-year-old girl from Chinsapo (in Lilongwe) came and complained that her father had been forcing himself on her on witchdoctor’s instructions in order to prosper in his barbershop business. When the mother learned about it, she rushed to her church elders, but the latter told her off, saying she should make no mention of it because that was what was happening in every family. Imagine that coming from a church elder!” she said. The minister also referred to an incident in Zomba where a 15-year-old girl disclosed that she was forced to sleep with a man immediately after she was initiated in what they call kuchotsa fumbi (initiating the girl into adulthood). The minister said the revelation came after the area’s chief had declined the existence of the practice. Banda said it was very disheartening to note that women are insecure in the very hands they are supposed to be well protected. “My understanding of the Bible and the Qur’an is that God created the woman to be the helper of man ‘ that is why He used the man’s rib so that the woman should always stand by her man’s side. But today, the helper has become the victim of violence,” Banda said. She, thus, called upon all religious and traditional leaders to join hands together with her ministry in stamping out gender-based violence. Speaking on behalf of chiefs, senior chief Tsabango said with the resolutions drawn at the workshop the ministry organised, they were not going to tolerate any practice of violence in their areas. General secretary for the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) Pastor Francis Mkandawire said his organisation was following up the issue concerning the Chinsapo girl and he said they would be ready with the report soon. “We are following up some of these cases and we are almost through with our findings. We are going to ensure that such things do not happen again,” said Mkandawire, adding that as a mother body of Christian associations, EAM would work hand in hand with its sister body, the Quadria Muslim Association, to fight gender-based violence once and for all. “We are equally concerned and we shall do all we can to make sure that there is change. As religious leaders, we are mandated by God to do that; we need not to be told by some one to do it,” said Mkandawire ,who was the chair of the religious leaders’ workshop. Speaking in an interview on behalf of the Quadria Muslim Association, Sheikh Shaibu Ibrahim of Dedza said Islam condemns violence but rather promotes love between husband and wife. He said a good example was set by Prophet Mohammed through the way he treated his wife Aisha. “Prophet Mohammed always had fond memories of his deceased first wife Khadija and even with his other wife Aisha, they used to run together side by side showing that they were both equal,” Ibrahim said. Minister Banda called upon chiefs and religious leaders to urge Members of Parliament in their respective areas to support the Bill that women legislators intend to introduce in the House this April. “We shall need all the support from fellow male MPs as you know there are only 27 female MPs in Parliament,” she said. The minister, however, said most of the male MPs had already shown interest and she said she was optimistic that the Bill would come to pass. ‘

March 2006
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