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Securing justice for sexual violence survivors

Ivy pointing the direction of where she was going on a fateful day

Chikulamayembe Women Forum, an ActionAid Malawi partner in Rumphi intensifies campaign against sexual violence.

A 13-year-old Ivy (not real name) wishes the day she was sent to the market to buy relish for supper never came in her life.  Upon reaching a maize-mill which was some stone’s throw away from the market-place, Ivy saw a man coming from a house behind the maize-mill beckoning her.

“The man asked me to help him with some household chores at his house, saying his wife was away, hence he needed someone to urgently help him with something,” recalls Ivy, words struggling to come out of her traumatized mind.

When Ivy reached the house, the man grabbed her by the hand and took her to his bedroom where he defiled her. Ivy was then given K300 and told not to tell anyone about the incident. He threatened to kill her if she revealed the incident to anyone. Out of fear, Ivy, who was until the incident a standard three learner at a nearby primary school, complied.  

But silence cost Ivy as the man, using the same tricks, defiled her two more times on separate days of the month of June, 2020.

Two months later, Ivy’s mother started noticing some strange behavior in her first-born daughter.

“She started looking lazy and was most of the time asleep. She started becoming so choosy about foods. When I took her to the hospital for pregnancy test, it was revealed that she was carrying a two-month-old baby. The news broke my heart. I could not sleep some for nights. My husband was equally devastated,” says Ivy’s mother.

After days of being quizzed, Ivy revealed the man behind the act. News angered Ivy’s parents who reported the matter to Chikulamayembe Women Forum for possible redress.

 “When we received the case, we immediately referred it to police who arrested the man. As a forum, we supported the survivor and her parents by providing means of transport to and from the court to ensure that justice is delivered on the matter,” says Chihana, programme coordinator at Chikulamayembe Women Forum.

Sensing danger, the perpetrator who has six children from three different wives, made several attempts to bribe the Ivy’s parents, including offering K100 000 for them to withdraw the case. However, the parents, at the advice of the women forum, rejected the offer, and used it as evidence against the perpetrator in court.

After almost six months of case hearing, the man was convicted and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with hard labour by Bolere Magistrate Court.

Chihana says justice delivered on the case has solidified the communities’ confidence in the Forum, adding the case is just one the numerous ones the forum has been handling the area.

“As a girl and women rights focused forum, we have noted that most of the gender and sexual violence cases in the area are perpetuated by men and boys against women, young women and girls. In 2020 alone, we handled about 60 cases on gender-based violence. Depending on the nature of the cases, some of them are resolved at the forum, while some are referred to other institutions such as Police for redress,” she says.

Chihana says her organisation is concerned about any incident of sexual and gender-based violence as it limits girls and women participation in social, economic and political life, “which eventually subjects women and girls to poverty and injustice.