Christian mother bodies, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), and Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), have added their voice to calls for an end to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the country.
In a statement issued as the world winds up the observance of the 16 days of activism a GBV, the bodies say they have noted with concern the alarming increase in cases of rape and defilement in the country that is threatening lives and rights of innocent women, men, girls and boys.
The statement has been signed by the Reverend Father Henry Saindi, who is ECM General Secretary, and his MCC and EAM counterparts, Bishop Gilford Matonga and Reverend Francis Mkandawire, respectively.
The faith leaders says even more disturbing are delays in response and support mechanisms to both the survivors and victims of these barbaric acts against humanity.
“These acts leave lifelong physical and psychological scars in the life of those affected and undermine their dignity and confidence,” they say.
They bodies state that as Christian mother bodies, they strongly hold the belief that although we are physically different and possess unique functions for human procreation and sustenance, we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1 verse 27).
“In this regard, we are all equal before the Creator. We further believe in the supremacy of human dignity regardless of sex, age, race and/or nationality. The recent developments are therefore in direct conflict with God’s creation and are tantamount to assault on the dignity of life at the core. This is unacceptable and should be stopped by all means. The Scriptures command us to love others just as we love ourselves and do unto them as we would have loved them do unto us (Mathews 7 Verse 12; Mark 12 Verse 31),” they preach.
The faith leaders have since appealed to their fellow religious leaders, as moral advocates in society, to seriously teach and campaign against rape, defilement and all forms of gender based injustices against women and children.
They say various platforms within various places of worship and outside including community gatherings should be used to fight against these malpractices.
“We should take it as our responsibility to ensure all religious institutions support survivors and victims of gender injustice by protecting and providing safe space and other essential materials to survivors of GBV, providing counseling and guidance where necessary. We should promote reporting of all cases for redress without fear or favour until the survivors as well as victims get justice,” they emphasize.
They have also called for collaboration among stakeholders committed to the same cause, including relevant Government Departments, other Non-Governmental Organisations and development partners in promoting positive masculinities in fighting against gender injustices through among others mobilisation of the men’s guild and youths on the same.
In the same vein, the Christian mother bodies have asked traditional leaders to stop and get rid of all harmful cultural practices and rituals that predispose women and children to gender injustices, adopt appropriate community enforcement mechanisms to ensure complete compliance within the community in fighting gender injustice and ensure enforcement of by-laws particularly those to do with child and teen marriages which fuel SGBV.
“Chiefs should also take a leaders role in raising awareness on gender and encourage your subjects to report cases of Sexual GBV to relevant authorities. On the other hand, the government and other duty bearers should provide sufficient funding and relevant support to fight gender injustices, especially fund the Malawi Human Rights Commission for the Implementation of the Gender Equality Act.
“Parliament should provide protected funding for promotion of gender justice and fighting inequalities while law enforcers and security agents must ensure that the law is applied and enforced without bias or favour. There are reports of GBV cases being mishandled by the law enforcement agencies under the influence of corruption. This is a double blow to survivors and victims of gender injustice and must be stopped,” continues the statement.
To the media, the faith leaders have asked journalists to aggressively disseminate information on gender injustice of any form, using all media outlets for the people to hear and change their mindset.
The churches call upon all Malawians of goodwill to pray earnestly for God’s divine intervention that Gender Based Violence may be completely uprooted in our country.