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The plight of children in northern Malawi

Written by  Winnie Agnes Botha

Despite deliberate moves by the courts in sentencing convicts of defilement with harsh punishments such as longer sentences with hard labor in a bid to deter would be offenders, men continue committing such crimes.

01
October

Recently in the northern region the numbers of defilement cases have been on the increase as compared to last year and that now it’s an everyday situation and 90% of the victims are girls between the ages of 5 and 12.

 

MBC decided to make a random visit at the courts in Mzuzu and found out that four men were answering charges of defilement at the same day. Among the victims were 6 and 13 year old girls.

 

One of the accused a teacher at a primary school in Mzuzu, defiled a 12 year-old standard 8 pupil infecting her with sexually transmitted Infections.

 

The young girl Nganile (not her real name) told the court that she was defiled by her teacher and he threatened her that if she happens to tell anyone about the incident she would be killed.

 

“He told me that he will kill me and that he will make me fail my PSLCE, I was so afraid” she narrated in the court. These threats made the girl zip her mouth for five months. Since she was at a self-boarding, far away from her mother she kept is to herself and managed to pretend as if nothing happened to her.

 

Five months down the line, her mother noticed that her child was sickly and never happy. She took her to Mzuzu Central Hospital where doctors diagnosed her with sexually transmitted infections. This made the mother question her daughter who revealed that it was her teacher who defiled her.

 

Speaking to this reporter, the young girl, fighting back tears due to STIs pain and trauma said what her teacher did destroyed her self-esteem and now people look at her with eyes full of questions and discrimination knowing that the said teacher is HIV Positive.

“The law should take its required action and that experts should help me get over the issue it hurts me so much and all my dignity is lost” She said.

Having difficulties to walk as she got sores all over her genitalia she tells this reporter that the accused teacher may have done this to so many girls at the school only that many may not come out for fear of the unknown.

 

The issue was reported to Mzuzu police and the accused is still in custody while facing trial before the Mzuzu Chief Resident Magistrate Texas Masoyamphambi.

This is not the only case before this court as some more 21 suspects are in the cooler facing the same charges of defilement in Mzuzu, arrested from across the region. Some suspects with legal representation.


Inside the court room the victims as young as 6 testify and follow proceedings in a language which is too heavy for their small and tiny lips against their alleged defilers who are mostly over 40 years old. Relying on Police prosecutors, parents hold heads in their hands waiting for justice to be delivered.

One of the victim’s mother Nyakumwenda (not real name)told this writer that although any human being is entitled to fair trial and legal representation sometimes the nature of the crime makes one less human.

 

She called on justice to strike hard on those entrusted with the duty of protecting children but choose to do the opposite. “My hope is in justice, let justice come out in favor of my daughter so that we can move on with our lives” lamented Nyakumwenda.

 

Both the victims and parents wait for justice to take its course since one is innocent until proven guilty by competent courts.

 

But why are these cases on the increase? Northern Region Police publicist Sergeant Maurice Chapola says this is an evil that has everything to do with myths of cure for some STIs and AIDS or Cleansing from evil spirits of some sort or just mere lack of self-control.


“We have been sensitizing people on the dangers of defilement, it’s sad that even after giving out information today, tomorrow those who were listening are arrested for the same crime”. Chapola Said.

 

Different civil society organizations have been sensitizing communities on defilement issues in a bid to address outstanding issues and jointly create a child friendly environment in which girls feel safe and can grow up healthily with peace and dignity but looks like the message is not being heard.

 

The other most important part which most organizations forget about defilement is the counseling which the victims need most. The trauma and other unanswered questions the victims face need special attention.

 

According to the Northern Region police headquarters the region recorded 60 cases from January to June last year and recorded 112 cases from January to June this year a sign that defilement is on the increase.


Worse still out of those defiled 60% were girls between 5 and 10, defiled by men over 40 years old and 75% of the victims were infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections like Gonorrhea, Syphilis and HIV.

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