Lilongwe, March 7: Government says it places high on its development agenda the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.
Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Anita Kalinde, said this when she addressed the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) currently taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
According to a press statement released by Malawi’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, the Minister said Government was committed to the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1880 and 1890; and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Other instruments the minister pledged Government’s commitment to their implementation include the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa; the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality; and the SADC Gender and Development Protocol.
Kalinde, who is leading Malawi delegation to the conference, told the meeting that in order to promote gender equality and women empowerment, Malawi had adopted the international instruments through Chapter 4 of its Constitution which enshrines the bill of rights and states that violence against women is an evil that needs to be eradicated in the society.
“In addition, the Prevention of Domestic Violence law of 2006, the Child Justice and Protection Act of 2010, and the Deceased Estates (Wills, Inheritance and Protection) Act of 2011 have also been enacted,” explained the Minister.
She added that to strengthen the provision of judicial services in all the Magistrates Courts in the country, 120 prosecutors, magistrates and social workers were trained in the gender related laws in 2012 and 34 Child Justice Magistrates, 37 Probation Officers, 39 Prosecutors and 34 court clerks were trained in child justice system and that two child-friendly courts are operational in Blantyre and Zomba.
The Minister reported to the conference that in its current sitting of Parliament, Malawi had passed the Gender Equality Bill into law thereby strengthening the operationalization of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979.
The Act, she explained further, offers a protective mechanism towards the violation of the rights of females and outlines explicitly the areas under which discrimination, harmful cultural practices and sexual harassment are prohibited among others.
The Gender Minister pointed out that the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II) had included gender mainstreaming as one of the priority areas which cover strengthening of institutional capacity; engendering of budgets; eradication of gender based violence and the promotion of participation of women in politics and decision-making processes.
“Government has also put in place a National Response Framework to serve as a strategic policy instrument for the multi-sectoral approach in the prevention and eradication of gender based violence in Malawi,” said the Minister.
To ensure effective protection of women and children in the country, Kalinde said Malawi Government had established Victim Support Units in 34 police stations, 13 police posts and 200 Support Units in 300 Traditional Authority institutions, and 20 One Stop Centres in Central and District hospitals.
“To date 30% of the reported cases of violence are prosecuted. The multi-sectoral approach has enabled Malawi to work with “Men for Gender Equality Now” an NGO which has been conducting travelling conferences from 2003 in collaboration with its regional counterparts.
“Annually the organisation reaches out to about 1.5 million people while the multi- media campaign reaches out to over 6 million people,” explained Kalinde, adding that consequently, the culture of silence has been broken and that there was a marked increase in the number of reported cases of violence against women.
However, the Minister observed that sexual abuse of children, poverty, unequal power relations, high levels of illiteracy, burden of care that women shoulder, poor access to HIV and AIDS services including care and treatment were continued to be stumbling blocks to government’s efforts.
She noted that women and girls, who constitute 52 percent of the country’s population, were more vulnerable to HIV transmission and impacts of AIDS than men and boys and that of the 920,000 people living with HIV in Malawi, about 470,000 were women and 120,000 were children aged 0 to 14 years hence, the fight against HIV and AIDS at all the levels continues.
Kalinde pointed out other challenges as inadequate resources to roll out best practices; increased natural disasters due to climate change; limited access to justice services; poverty among women; poor and inadequate infrastructure; persistent harmful cultural practices; and resistance to behavior change.
Malawi has accelerated the implementation of safe motherhood programmes with the establishment of an office in the Office of the President and Cabinet and through the involvement of the traditional leaders.
According to the United Nations 2012 estimates, Malawi’s maternal mortality ratio declined to 460 from 675 per 100,000 live births in 2010.
The Minister, therefore, thanked the United Nations family and other development partners for their assistance towards the fight against gender based violence in Malawi.
She further appealed to the UN and all cooperating development partners to increase resource allocation for programmes aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against women.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was established by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with the aim to prepare recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women's rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.
The Commission also makes recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women's rights. Malawi is currently a member of the CSW and its membership expires in 2016.