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Malawi demonstrates against GBV; Police remove ‘obscene’ placard

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LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The much awaited mass demonstration against GBV that took place in Lilongwe on Thursday ended in disarray after the Malawi police arrested one protester for carrying a placard that was deemed to be obscene.

The police arrested Beatrice Mateyu after the placard she carried, attracted divergent comments on social media.

The placard in question was handwritten with explicit mention of women body parts in both Chichewa and English.

This prompted Inspector General of Police (IG) Lexten Kachama to order the removal of the placard; it also led to Mateyu taken to Lingadzi police station, area 18 for questioning.

The development however, angered organizers of the demonstration who invaded the police station to demand Beatrice’s release.

In an exclusive interview with the Maravi Post after the release on bail, Mateyu said she was surprised to see the police reaction on the placard; she said it defined the whole course of the marching.

She added that she will continue expressing her views on how some misguided men take some people as objects.

“I don’t regret carrying that placard. It carried the message that we wanted the nation to take women are human beings,” said Mateyu.

Parliamentary women caucus Chairperson Dr. Jessie Kabwira, who was at the station to force the police for Beatrice’s release, expressed concern of police conduct. She accused law enforcers of failing to understand the laws of the land.

Dr. Kabwira, who is also the Member of Parliament for Salima North- West, said the incident just showed how the nation is not ready to protect women.

The lawmaker added that the demonstrations aim was to give a clear message on violence against women, which the police did amid the same cause.

But IG Kachama defended the decision, arguing that the placard was demeaning to women.

The police chief added that he called the officers who were providing security at the demonstrations to remove the said placard and let the demonstration continue without the one carrying obscene message-placard.

“It was too much, it was demeaning to women.
Ana khala ngati awavula azimayi onse (It was like all the women were undressed). We cannot allow that,” said Kachama.

The demonstration comes in the wake of various cases of gender-based violence, especially against women.

Among recent episodes of violence includes a 30-year old Lilongwe woman being stabbed to death by her former boyfriend; another was stabbed because she tried to collect a debt a male fellow businessman owes her.

High-profiled people, who participated in the demonstrations included Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, human rights activists and members of the diplomatic community.

The demonstration, which started from Area 18 Roundabout through Parliament, and Capital Hill Roundabout, to Lilongwe City Council offices, was led by Chairperson for Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Jessie Kabwila.

During one of the stopovers of the march, Kabwira branded the GBV perpetrators as cowards who are scared of successful and independent women, and thus shield their cowardice through physical violence.

She said: “Let’s get each other clear here: this demonstration is not against men. It is a demonstration of our disapproval against the barbaric acts of gender based violence against women, which are perpetrated by cowards who in turn, are tarnishing the good image of this country’s civilized men.”

Kabwira also refreshed the sorrowful memories of the women who had been killed through GBV, including that of late Miriam Siula, who was viciously stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend for allegedly having refused to get back into a relationship with him.

“As concerned citizens, we are in deep shock with the recent death of a young woman; late Miriam Siula, who was murdered by her ex-partner in Chilinde. There have also been many cases of gender based violence in the form of physical abuses through brutal beatings of wives by their husbands, who unfortunately are our own law enforcers,” reads part of the petition, which has been presented to the Ministry of Gender, Disability and Social Welfare.

The activists have since demanded, through the petition, that among others, all teachers who engage in any form of gender based violence must be fired by their respective institutions.

“We call upon the Head of State to issue a statement as the President and the Ambassador to condemn gender based violence in all its forms,” reads one of the demands in the petition.

The petition was received by Deputy Minister for Gender, Clement Mbukwa, who promised to submit it to the relevant authorities for relevant action.

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