MHRC concerned over women’s struggles to access justice

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has bemoaned the continued struggles by women affected by Gender Based Violence (GBV) to access justice in the country.

MHRC Commissioner Bertha Sefu expressed the concern on Friday at Iponga primary school in Karonga following a sensitization meeting with communities on the Public inquiry on Justice Delivery on Violence against Women and Girls in the Formal and Informal Justice System.

Speaking in an interview, Sefu who is also responsible for gender and chairperson for child rights at the commission, said the aim of the public inquiry is to reduce the prevalence of violence against women and girls and improve the justice system for women and girls living with violence in Malawi.

She said MHRC aims to ensure formal and informal justice services and local institutions are accessible, responsive and accountable to women and children’s needs.

“The justice that these victims receive in courts, the police and in the communities is not satisfactory as these women suffer a lot when they access justice as they receive double punishment as they are beaten at home laughed at by the police and then they are sent back to the same husbands in most cases hence the inquiry,” she said.

Sefu added that violence against women and girls (VAWG) is one of the world’s most widespread human rights violations which affects one in three woman in their lifetime yet globally the large majority of survivors of VAWG are unable to access justice.

High Court Judge Fiona Mwale who is also the national training coordinator for Women Judges Association of Malawi Justice, observed that the biggest problem to access to justice is the long distance to courts.

“Some courts are as far away as 100 kilometres from the centres where the women are experiencing the violence so for them to find transport to go to court is a problem and when their case goes to court for the witnesses to attend trial to give evidence is also a challenge,” Justice Mwale explained.

In his remarks Senior Chief Mwakaboko, said MHRC’s decision to hold the public inquiry in his area is a big boost to women and girls who are living in fear and in silence to report the violence in his community.

According to statistics from the Karonga Gender Office, so far in 2020 the district has registered 547 gender based violence cases and 385 teenage pregnancies.

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