18 December 2018
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Kameme’s broken marriages

Written by  Bishop Witmos
Gender based violence is a contributing factor: CCJP Desk Officer Abel Malumbira - Pic by Bishop Witmos Gender based violence is a contributing factor: CCJP Desk Officer Abel Malumbira - Pic by Bishop Witmos

Chitipa, September 18, 2018: He returned home very late at around 3 am after drinking chipumu, a strong local opaque beer popular in Chitipa. 

Wielding a panga knife (machete), he asked his wife to pack her belongings and move out of the house at such an odd hour.

I found Joyce (not her real name) aged 26 at Kameme Magistrate’s Court in July this year with a divorce letter in her right hand.

That sunny day, she looked lonely, unenergetic and to have just shed tears.

Ironically, minutes later, the young woman sounded unworried in court.

‘‘Even though I do not have capacity to take care of my children, I don’t want him again because he is evil,’’ she told the court.

Married at the age of 18 in 2010, Joyce told First Grade Magistrate Julius Kalambo that every time her husband got drunk he would insult and assault her severely.

After submissions from both parties to the case, at exactly 5 pm the jam parked court witnessed the end of Joyce’s 8-year-old marriage.

Kalambo ordered the husband to be paying K10, 000 every month towards the support of children until when they are grown up.

He also ordered the divorced to share all their wealth equally.

Consequently, Joyce became a single mother of two with the last born under a year.

Despite being a Saturday, when most people conduct marriage ceremonies, the Kameme court facilitated the legal ending of two more marriages.

Interestingly, in all the three cases, women were petitioners and stood their ground that all they wanted was divorce.

Files at Kameme Magistrates’ Court show that in July alone, out of 40 cases that were presided over, 30 were divorces. This means every day a marriage broke up during the month.

“Three quarters of cases that I preside over in Kameme per year are divorces. Most of them involve young couples married since 2000,” he says.

He warns that if the divorce rate in Kameme is not going to be minimized, HIV and AIDS prevalence rate will also go up in the years to come.

‘‘Unlike in the past, people now marry at a tender age. When faced with challenges, they opt for divorce due to lack of maturity.

‘‘But the danger is that after the divorce both of them remarry. This tendency is promoting the spread of HIV and Aids here in Chitipa,’’ Kalambo says.

According to the 2016 Malawi Demographics Health Survey (MDHS), Malawi is among countries worst affected by HIV epidemic in the sub-Saharan region, with HIV prevalence rate higher among young women at 4.8 percent as compared to young men at 1 percent.

However, recently Malawi has made some strides in the fight against HIV and Aids as the 2015 to 2016 Population–based HIV Impact Assessment Report shows a decrease of incidence rate.

Currently, HIV prevalence rate for Chitipa is lower, at 3.1 percent, as compared to the national level’s 8 percent.

Desk Officer for Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) under the Karonga Diocese Abel Malumbira says gender based violence is a contributing factor for women in Kameme to increasingly seek divorce.

Malumbira adds that most men, especially in rural areas, take advantage of women’s social inequalities in gender, income as well as age to violate their rights.

The 2016 MDHS report says one third of women in Malawi have experienced physical or sexual violence inflicted by their intimate partners.

Meanwhile, the Karonga Diocese is implementing a three-year project in Chitipa for the promotion of enjoyment of women and children rights.

The project, which is funded by Misereor of Germany from 2016 to 2019, aims at addressing human rights violations by, among others, supporting areas that have no residential magistrates with mobile courts.

‘‘We support magistrates with financial resources to conduct mobile courts every month in Kameme, and the purpose is to ensure that access to administration of justice for rural women and children is improved,’’ Malumbira says.

Through the project, CCJP plans to reach over 13000 people through awareness campaigns to ensure that human rights of women and children are respected.

Currently, Chitipa District has no magistrates in Kameme and Nthalire.

ActionAid’s programmes officer for Chitipa, Albert Winga, attributes the frequent divorce cases in Kameme to unequal opportunity for education for girls and boys.

Winga says due to poverty, some communities in rural areas rarely send the girl child to school. As a result, she gets married early.

According to the 2015 to 2016 Population–based HIV Impact Assessment Report, 29 percent of women aged 15 to 19 in Malawi were pregnant with their first child or already mothers during the period.

Senior Chief Kameme is afraid of what is happening in his area, saying Malawi will one day wake up to thousands of children without proper parental care in his area that borders with Tanzania.

According to the 2017 findings by Resources for the Awareness of Population Impacts on Development (RAPID), Malawi is experiencing rapid population growth due to high fertility rate.

The findings show that between 2008 and 2017, the population grew from 13.1 million to approximately 17.4 million, an increase of approximately 33 percent.

Kameme blames women in his area saying they are copying culture from foreign tribes that take marriage as a business.

‘‘Some women take marriage as a means of acquiring wealth as after divorce, they go away with some property. Regardless of how many children they have, two to three years later, they remarry.

‘‘However, I am concerned with the plight of children who are increasingly becoming the most victims of broken marriages,’’ he says.