COVID-19 sparks rape, child marriages in Malawi

YONECO empowering girl-child in Malawi. Photo by Nyasa Post

from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) THE coronavirus (COVID-19) spread has triggered an upsurge in rapes and child marriages in Malawi.

According to humanitarian agencies, a spike has been noted since April and May, coinciding with a lockdown against the pandemic.

The non-governmental Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) revealed that the number of child marriages reported through its hotline increased by 18 percent during that period.

The United Nations (UN) office in Malawi bemoaned the trend.

“This is an extremely worrying statistic given that, even before the pandemic, Malawi already had one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world,” a spokesperson of the UN stated.

Civil society organisations have teamed up with government to address the scourges that mostly affect the girl child.

They have joined forces under the Spotlight Initiative.

“This is to ensure that women and girls do not become collateral damage of the measures taken to stop the spread of this disease (COVID-19),” the UN spokesperson stated.

The Spotlight Initiative, a joint programme aimed at eliminating violence against women and girls, is the single largest targeted investment in eradicating such abuses that the Southern African country has ever seen.

Around 60 per cent of the programme’s implementation has been in the districts of Dowa, Machinga, Mzuzu, Nkhata Bay, Nsanje and Ntchisi.

This is where harmful attitudes and beliefs related to violence against women and girls are prevalent.

Malawi has documented 123 deaths from 4 231 cases of COVID-19 at the time of publication.

Globally, the pandemic has resulted in a steep increase of violence against women and girls.

– CAJ News

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