Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda has reversed his order that the public should punish perpetrators of sexual violence on their own volition, saying people should not take matters into their own hands.
Chimwendo Banda –who is also leading the National Task Force on Sexual Violence that President Lazarus Chakwera tasked to tackle rising cases of defilement–expressed concern over increased cases of sexual violence and had earlier suggested: “When someone is found defiling, grab them, beat and break them up.
“By the time they get to police, you should have already dealt with them. Thieves must be taken to police, but defilers should be roughed up, beat them up!”
But he has changed tune now, saying citizens should have more trust in their law enforcement agencies like the police and the courts and not administer vigilante justice.
“Let’s not take the law in our hands, lets trust our police. We will make sure that access to justice is there,” said Chimwendo Banda.
“We have taken bold steps, we have drawn up strategies and this scourge will end,” he added.
The minister stressed that there should be no sanctuary for people behind the evils against women and girls.
“Trust the police, trust the courts,” he maintained.
Commentators say the best way to prevent vigilante justice is for the state to improve law enforcement. Once people gain more trust in their law enforcement agencies like the police and the courts, they are less likely to undermine them with their own actions.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Chairperson Rev. Patrick Semphere has since commended the Tonse government for coming up with a National Action Plan against rape and defilement but appealed for “adequate funding” for the action plan and strong political will to drive the crusade against rape and gender-based violence.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera asked victims of gender-based violence and all Malawians to report cases of sexual offences to police so that the suspects face trial.