Malawi 2017/2018
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Malawi 2017/2018

Two people were killed as attacks against people with albinism resumed. Gender-based violence increased. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people continued to live in fear of harassment and attacks. Draft legislation threatened to silence NGOs and civil society organizations working on governance and human rights issues.

Discrimination – people with albinism

Attacks against people with albinism resumed in January after an interval of seven months. Two people were killed. On 10 January, Madalitso Pensulo, a teenage boy, was killed in Mlonda village in the Tyolo District. In February, Mercy Zainabu Banda was found murdered in Lilongwe with her wrist, right breast and hair removed. In March, two brothers were stabbed in Nsanje. As of 30 August, 20 murders of people with albinism which have taken place since 2014 remained unresolved.

Violence against women and girls

Gender-based violence continued; seven women were reported to have been murdered in August and September alone. On 14 September, around 150 women participated in a national march to protest against the alarming levels of gender-based violence. The Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare publicly expressed its concerns about the killings. One of the protesters, Beatrice Mateyo, was arrested and charged with carrying a placard bearing “offensive and obscene words”. She was charged with “insulting the modesty of a woman” under section 137(3) of the Penal Code and released on bail the same day. If convicted she faced up to one year’s imprisonment.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

Harassment of and attacks against LGBTI people continued. In January the People’s Party spokesman, Kenneth Msonda, publicly said that “gays are worse than dogs and must be killed”. Activists brought a case against him for inciting violence against gay and lesbian people. The Constitutional Court was considering whether charges should be brought against him at the end of the year.

In August, a 12-year-old boy stopped going to school after he faced repeated harassment and attacks, such as people throwing stones at him and urinating on him. He and his family lived in fear that he might be killed.

Same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults remained illegal. However, the solicitor general intervened in April after political and church leaders held a protest against LGBTI people. The Malawi Human Rights Commission indicated it would hold public consultations on whether to reform the law.

Human rights defenders

Draft amendments to the NGO law remained before Parliament. The amendments, which introduced broad, excessive, intrusive and arbitrary controls on the activities of NGOs, could silence critics including human rights groups. If implemented, the law would establish an NGO Board under the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare with wide discretionary powers, including to approve NGOs’ funding applications to donor agencies; and to demand that such applications fall in line with government policies and be designed to “advance the public interest”. NGOs would be forced to register with the NGO Board which would have power to deregister them. They would also be required to sign Memorandums of Understanding with local government before operating in the community.