Speaker says tackling GBV top of to-do list for Malawi

• By Moses Magadza

SALIMA, MALAWI – Malawians consider gender-based violence (GBV) the most important women’s rights issue that the government and society should address.

This was said by the Speaker of the Parliament of Malawi, Catherine Gotani Hara, in remarks made on her behalf by Deputy Speaker of the Malawi Parliament, Aisha Adams, at a high-level workshop on the SADC Model Law on Gender-Based Violence held at Salima, in Malawi last week.

Hara said, despite having a rich vein of policies and laws to tackle the vice, it is ironic that GBV is on the rise in the country.

“It is on this basis that I thank the SADC Parliamentary Forum for coming up with this model law, which is expected to guide SADC nations when it comes to law-making on gender issues,” the Speaker said.

She noted that the rich quality of the model law results from the wide consultative processes throughout the SADC region during its development.

“The model law is, therefore, a response to the prevailing shortfalls in existing GBV legislation and the persistent gaps between policies and practices across the region,” Hara said and also thanked Malawi’s Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare (Jean Sendeza) and Plan International Malawi for organising the meeting, which is critical to the law-making process that parliament is entrusted with.

“Our work requires that we live in conformity with the rest of the international community whenever we make laws. We all know that we live in a global village as a nation.

“This is why, time and again, our government has committed to global values by signing and ratifying various treaties, protocols, and international instruments promoting regional integration,” she added.

Hara said one such instrument is the SADC Model Law on GBV, which aims to harness the formulation of good national laws to curb gender-based violence.

She said Malawi had put in place the necessary legal framework that includes the Malawi National Gender Policy; the Gender Equality Act; Deceased Estates, Wills, Inheritance and Protection Act; Marriage, Divorce and Family Act; Criminal Procedures Act; and Trafficking in Persons Act to deal with gender-based violence.

But despite having all it requires regarding the legal framework to curb GBV, the issue is on the rise in the country.

“The question you and I should ask is why the situation is like this? I believe this workshop will help us to answer this question.

“We have experts on the subject, especially those who have consulted widely on it, including experts from SADC PF (Parliamentary Forum) and neighbours from Plan International Zambia offices, who I believe will provide the forum with experiences from the SADC block.

“Locally, we have representatives from the Office of the Ombudsman, Malawi Human Rights Commission, and youth groups, who I believe will spice up the discussions with home-based experiences on GBV,” Hara said.

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