Killed in Matrimonial Homes
When a tragic incident in which a woman, Marieta Samuel, had her hands chopped off by an abusive husband happened 17 years ago in Dowa district, all quarters of society strongly condemned the criminal act.
Human rights bodies, law enforcement agencies, the clergy and political leaders, vowed to end such abuses to ensure all citizens of this country enjoy their rights to the fullest.
This was in line with the country’s constitution which states in Section 16 that everyone has the right to life. Marginalized groups of people such as women and children, have the right to full and equal protection, too.
But 30 years since drafters of the country’s constitution made their position clear on the right to life, it shows incidents of gender-based violence continue rising and contributing to violation of this fundamental human right.
In Chikutu Village in the area of Sub Traditional Authority Kamphambale in Nkhotakota district, Sunday, 16th April 2023, is a day to remember for Ethel Banda.
She was on separation with her husband, Monara Chirwa, when a tragic incident occurred on that day.
The 21-year-old woman says she had escaped from her husband’s house after being locked inside by the man for five days over a family dispute. There was no food or water.
At her mother in-law’s house where she was seeking shelter, Ethel and her 9-month-old son stayed for a few hours only.
“My husband came and took the child. When we followed him home, we were surprised to find him with a deep cut on the neck. He refused to enter the house. When I entered, I was shocked to find our son dead.
“The child was stabbed with a knife in the chest. My husband said he had killed a dog, not a human being,” explained Banda.
She further said Chirwa never disclosed at any point what caused the anger which led to his actions saying, ‘he was only accusing me of being disobedient’.
Three days after the Nkhotakota incident, the body of a woman was found dumped around Napeli in Blantyre. It had the head and legs removed.
Police immediately launched an investigation to identify the deceased and murder suspects.
Headway was later made. A relation managed to identify the deceased, through birthmarks, as a wife to 45-year-old Mike Baloni, according to Peter Mchiza, Blantyre Police Station Public Relations Officer.
“We have arrested the husband as he is unable to give a good account of where his wife is. He said she is in Zomba visiting her relatives but it has been discovered that there are none of their relatives in Zomba.
“Enquires have been made and members of the neighborhood where they live have disclosed that they heard the two quarreling at night and the woman was nowhere to be seen in the morning,” said Mchiza, soon after the incident.
Another woman, M’datayika Wantoni, lost her life in the area of Traditional Authority Chikho in Ntchisi district in September last year. She died at 18.
“I don’t know what their disagreement was all about as they were staying far from the home village. I just received a message that my daughter was killed. But during the funeral ceremony, some people said her husband wanted to grab a phone from my daughter and later stabbed her in the neck using a knife,” explained 48-year-old Samatha Fanwell, biological mother to the late M’datayika.
All three men implicated in these separate cases are currently on police remand, waiting to answer murder charges. Their relations want speedy trials for justice to prevail.
“We have never heard any report that this case is being taken to court. When shall we get justice?” Wondered Kandimosi Banda, uncle to the late M’datayika.
National Police Spokesperson Peter Kalaya insists that measures are being taken by the law enforcement agency to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.
“We have the community policing branch assisting in awareness campaigns to prevent GBV cases. Any reported case is given priority in our criminal investigations,” said Kayala.
He said the Malawi Police Service is equally concerned with the loss of life in these cases, advising couples to always share their challenges with others to find solutions.
On the concern that suspects in cases of this nature are kept on police remand for so long, the national police spokesperson defended law enforcers saying they are doing all they can to facilitate speedy trials.
“When it comes to people being on remand, it is not the problem of the police, it is a challenge in the entire justice system. What we do is to arrest the suspect, investigate the case and when we bring it before the court of law, it is up to the judiciary to see how to proceed. The best way is to keep on engaging different stakeholders to see how best these cases can proceed quickly,” he suggested.
But what is the government doing to protect its citizens on this aspect?
“The ministry has been conducting awareness meetings in most of the districts of the country as a preventive measure. It also makes sure that such cases are being followed up and the perpetrators are brought to book. Most of the people who commit such crimes are being prosecuted and some are sentenced to life imprisonment,” says Pauline Kaude, Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare spokesperson.
She adds that the ministry continues engaging stakeholders such as The Malawi Police Service and the Judiciary on delays in justice delivery.
Men Suffer Too
While there is more focus on violence which women and girls face, renowned gender activist Emma Kaliya is of the view that abuses against men orchestrated by women, need similar attention as they slowly increase in the country.
“We should be talking about how the society has become paralyzed; we see men continuing to do wrong things and also women, as they perhaps try to retaliate, we have seen a few of them harming their husbands. Yes, we know that men top the list of abusers,” she argued.
Kaliya further pointed out that more needs to be done on the provision of psychosocial support and mental health, adding: “We do not know what is happening behind the scenes, some people are using drugs, actually, apart from alcohol.”
The effects of GBV are in most cases life-lasting.
Marieta Samuel, the woman who is disabled because her hands were chopped off by an abusive husband when she was aged 31 in 2006, is worried that more women continue experiencing abuse in matrimonial homes with some losing lives.
Speaking from her home village at Nambuma in Dowa, Marieta, now aged 48, called on the government, non-state actors and all other players to join hands in the efforts aimed at protecting the rights of women and children.
“What is needed is to intensify use of local committees in the prevention of gender-based violence. All stakeholders need to work together. Women are facing abuse, even children, especially those being raised by step-parents.
“As for me, I have faced challenges in my life since 2006. I cannot do any work on my own since my hands were chopped off,” said Marieta.