Statement by the Solidarity of African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition Condemning the Recent Stripping of Women in Malawi

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The 39 members of the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights Coalition based in 18 African countries vehemently condemn the stripping of women wearing trousers and short skirts by male vendors in three major cities in Malawi namely Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre.

Women’s rights in Malawi are guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1982, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women that entered into force on 22 December 2000, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa of 2003 and the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, especially Chapter 4, sections 20 and 24 which focuses on the rights of women.

The above instruments have been ratified by the Government of Malawi in their bid to promote and protect women’s rights. For this reason, the SOAWR coalition finds it appalling that men in Malawi are publicly stripping women. This is a violation of women’s bodily integrity, dignity and freedom to self-expression. In addition, these acts intimidate women and therefore limit their freedom of movement.

 We are reassured that the Office of the President of Malawi, the Minister of Gender and the Minister of Communication have publicly condemned the violations and the law enforcement agencies have arrested suspects.

We urge the Government of Malawi and security agencies to be vigilant and protect women in Malawi. We further call upon the Government of Malawi to prosecute the accused within due process and to exercise zero tolerance to violations of women’s rights. In order to prevent a reoccurrence of these and other violations of women’s rights, the Government must announce a programme of long-term sensitisation campaigns to change negative attitudes and behaviours.

We stand in solidarity with the women of Africa and the women of Malawi in particular to ensure their rights are respected and protected.

Done on 25January 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

NOTE:

The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) Coalition is a pan-African regional network comprised of 39 national, regional and international civil society organisations based in 18 countries, working towards the promotion and protection of women’s human rights in Africa. Since its inauguration in 2004 SOAWR’s main area of focus has been to compel African states to urgently ratify, domesticate and implement the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.  The Protocol has thus far been ratified by 31 of the 54 African Union member states, the latest of which are Gabon and Equatorial Guinea who ratified the Protocol in February and June 2011 respectively.   The Coalition has committed itself to utilising the platform of the African Women’s Decade (2010-2020) to intensify efforts to compel African states to deliver on their commitments to women’s human rights, through ratification of the Protocol, accelerating implementation through a multi-sectoral approach, and prioritising the promotion and protection of women’s bodily integrity and dignity, as well as their participation in governance, peace and security processes and structures.

Faiza Mohamed, Director, Equality Now (SOAWR Secretariat), P.O. Box 2018-00202, Nairobi Kenya, Tel. +254-20-2719832/2719913, Fax: +254-20-2719868, Email: fmohamed@equalitynow.org, www.equalitynow.org, www.soawr.org

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About FEMNET

FEMNET (The African Women's Development and Communication Network) is a pan African, feminist organisation working to advance the rights of women and girls in Africa. FEMNET has carved a niche in Informing and mobilizing African women in order for them to participate and influence policies and processes that affect their lives. FEMNET has hundreds of members in over 40 countries in Africa as well as in the diaspora. It has played a critical role in building the women's movement in Africa since inception in 1988.

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