Malawi courts will soon have uniform sentencing of sexual violence perpetrators to ensure that the convicts in sex crimes get stiff punishment, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo has said.
Speaking during the International Human Rights Day today in Rumphi Mvalo said he will be taking to Parliament an amendment to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code on uniformity in sentencing cases relating to sexual violence.
He said the amendment will mean that the courts will have to mete out same sentences on similar issues so that the sentences will not be at the discretion of the magistrates.
“We will propose amendments of the Penal Code in Parliament to make punishment for rape and defilement stiffer and male the sentences mandatory,” said Mvalo.
“In law, when you use the word ‘may’, and ‘shall’, there is a difference. If you say on conviction a person may be sentenced to so many years, it means there is discretion of the court. It mat mete-out the same or lower.
“But when you use the word ‘shall’, it means that sentence is mandatory. This will help bring sanity,” said the minister.
Mvalo said his ministry also intends to seek an amendment to the Criminal procedures and Evidence Code which provides for procedures to follow on criminal cases in court, so that it provides expediting conclusion of these sexual violence cases.
Guest of honour at the function, Vice President Saulos Chilima said he is concerned with continued cases of sexual violence.
He asked Malawians to take a leading role in ensuring that the cases are dealt with.
“Malawi has, unfortunately, recently seen a sharp increase in Gender Based Violence cases with the Malawi Police Service receiving 1,440 defilement cases between January and October 2019, and 1,738 defilement cases between January and October 2020.
“These figures are frightening and alarming. Let us stop gender-based violence.
“As I have said elsewhere, I believe that gender-based violence can be prevented and it can be eradicated. The first step is to change our mindset and attitudes that rationalize, normalize, and perpetrate violence and against women and children,” he said.
He urged reflection on ending structural discrimination which has fuelled the COVID-19 crisis.
He said equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.
He also said the country needs to address the inequality pandemic, saying there was need to continue promoting and protecting economic, social, and cultural rights.
Chilima said there was need for everyone to participate in the recovery efforts.
“This is not a ‘Government alone’ problem to solve. We are all in this together,” he said.
He said there was need for sustainable development the country is to recover, saying human rights approaches and the 2030 agenda were vital to recovery.
“With the welfare of people at stake, governance measures taken to address COVID-19 must therefore be appropriate, effective and sustainable,” he said.
He said lessons learnt from this pandemic should inform how Government, citizens and other partners can collaborate to strengthen governance and social cohesion during the response, and even beyond.