Death of father at hands of mob casts a dark light on rise in Malawi rape cases

Death of father at hands of mob casts a dark light on rise in Malawi rape cases

A father who was reportedly beaten by a mob after he allegedly killed the man who attacked his daughter has died in hospital, in a case that has drawn attention to Malawi’s rise in reported rape cases.

The death of the 47-year-old man in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe was reported on Thursday. He had allegedly been beaten and left for dead by a vigilante mob, said to be relatives and friends of the man he had killed.

It comes after women’s rights activists criticised the minister of homeland security, Richard Chimwendo Banda, who said that communities should deal with the perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse themselves. He later apologised for his remarks.

Women’s activists have been holding regular protests over recent months in Malawi to demand tougher rape penalties after a spate of disturbing, high-profile cases, including several attacks on children.

Lilongwe’s deputy police spokesperson, Benjamin Foster, said the father had rescued his screaming 13-year-old daughter from a 21-year-old man who had allegedly broken into her bedroom and attacked her.

The police said they were investigating and would arrest the people who later attacked the father, although they said he “did not follow a right path himself” in killing his daughter’s attacker. Foster was quick to criticise those taking the law into their own hands, saying vigilantism was on the rise in the capital.

“As police we are very much concerned with this trend and we are appealing to the public to stop taking laws into their hands. When they suspect someone of committing a crime they need to arrest that person and take him/her to the police for the proper justice,” he said.

Immaculate Maluza, president of the Women Lawyers Association, said recent incidents showed the country’s legal system was not trusted or respected.

“The action of killing someone without a due process was actually not the best way of dealing with the situation. They should have taken the perpetrators to the police and let the judicial process take over,” Maluza said.

She said she did not believe Banda’s comments about vigilantism were behind this case.

“I don’t think what has happened is a result of the comments made by the minister because if that was the case we would have seen more cases of these incidences [mob justice]. The minister apologised as well and it is important that we look at the problems that exist within our society that perpetuate the rise in these cases,” Maluza said.

President Lazarus Chakwera has now set up a taskforce to look into the rise in rape and sexual abuse cases.

Maluza said there were various factors for the increase but emphasised the need to “undertake a situation analysis” so that the justice authorities could work with the most up-to-date data.

Malawi ranks 172 out of 189 countries on the UN gender inequality index, which measures women’s reproductive rights, safety and economic freedom.