Malawi’s Gender minister Reene Kachere has described this morning’s attacks on women dressed in trousers and mini-skirts by vendors as worse than rape.
“I will not rest until justice is done and these women should feel protected by Government. We will not allow a state of disorder to reign in this country,” Kachere warned
Malawi, a largely conservative southern African nation, today witnessed attacks on women dressed in trousers and mini-skirts in the capital Lilongwe by street vendors who were attempting to enforce a dress code reminiscent of the days when it was illegal for a women to put on a pair of trousers.
One of the women who was attacked as she disembarked from a minibus said that she had just walked 15 metres from the minibus depot when she heard people whistling and jeering at her.
“A young man selling plastic bags attacked me and pulled my t-shirt, the rest came and started punching and pulling me in different directions.
They touched me everywhere, I have never been humiliated like this before,” said the woman who was crying and had to be rescued by a moving minibus.
Many were stripped naked but no one is reported to have been raped. This still left many women activists and a government minister outraged.
“That is more than rape. If a woman wears jeans it’s difficult to rape her, those rapists are now angry. Why are they not attacking fellow men in dreadlocks if it is a question of culture, there is no law that bars a woman from wearing a skirt,” said Kachere.
She asked law enforcers should ensure that they protect women at all times asking them to scrutinise people in markets saying some of them were just idling and seeking to harass women.
Women activists were outraged. Last night they addressed an impromptu press conference calling all women to boycott buying from vendors.
Dorothy Ngoma of the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives and Lucky Mbewe of the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Civic Education said women should boycott from buying from vendors for the next two weeks as a protest to stripping of their dignity until the leadership
“Nurses wear trousers because it is cold at night. We treated many of vendors when they were shot during demonstrations, should we stop assisting them. From today women should not buy from male vendors until there is an apology,” said Ngoma.
Martha Kwataine of the Malawi Health Equity Network said the vendors should take their problems to the one who created them, saying a boycott of their products would teach the vendors to respect women as they are the majority of buyers of products.
“The President should learn politics of appeasement do not work. He has created this problem for the Police, City Council and now even women by hosting these people to beer parties and allowing them to trade anywhere. He should come and address these problems,’ said Kwataine.