Children ask for 'Stiff Penalties' for child rights violators
Children have called upon government to step up and ensure that child rights violators face stiffer penalties for crimes against children’s rights in particular for those who marry children under the age of 18. The children argued that most perpetrators are getting away easily for crimes that they are committing against children.
Making this request was Yamikani aged 13, during the event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Convention on Rights of the Child dubbed #CRC30 organizes with. Yamikani alongside other children, Trifonia 17, Readson 15, Charity 17 who were trained by Save the Children as child Parliamentarians led a discussion in which children asked government and stakeholders questions concerning their rights.
Directing his question to the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social welfare, Yamikani started by expressing concern that ‘some courts are applying laws selectively’. “Just for example, some well to do culprits are walking free in our country despite being cornered by the same laws after either marrying or impregnating or having an affair with a child.”, he explained.
He then asked, “as we are commemorating #CRC30, what commitments and assurances is the government giving us children so that all perpetrators who are brought to book are given stiff penalties?’
In response, Deputy Director for Child Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Mr. Trevor Hamela admitted that this was indeed a reality saying, “we have not done well on this issue”.
In 2015, Malawi enacted the Marriage and family relations act which prohibits marriage for persons under the age of 18 while in 2017 the constitution was amended to remove the provision giving parents permission to give consent to children aged 15-17 to marry.
However, Mr. Hamela explained that reason why some violators of crime on child marriage walk away free because some courts use the Penal Code when dealing with the case.
“Under the Penal Code the charge becomes defilement”, he said and then defined that defilement applies when the child is aged 16 years old and below.
“Therefore, when the child is 17 the perpetrator is found not be contravening any law”, he explained.
Mr. Hamela then explained that efforts are underway to correct this. “As I speak we have developed a comprehensive amendment report which has been submitted to Ministry of Justice. The idea is that we want to amend the Penal Code to ensure that defilement age is increased to 18”.
Save the Children is one of the organizations that worked together with Ministry to develop the report as part of its ambition to #EndchildMarriages and ensure rights for #EveryLastChild.