The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) has submitted a shadow report on Malawi to the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (the Committee).
Between 26 October and 20 November 2015, the Committee will review Malawi’s adherence to the commitments it made when it acceded to the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (the Convention). The Convention is an international treaty which 188 states have committed to abide by. By being a party to the treaty, such states agree that women have the right to the same opportunities and treatment as men and that any actions which unfairly discriminate against women are a violation of human rights. They agree that it is their responsibility to ensure authorities, institutions and systems in their country do not unfairly discriminate against women. In order to ensure accountability, the states further agree to submit periodic reports to the Committee. Malawi submitted its first report in 1988 and this year its 7th periodic report will be reviewed.
Prior to reviewing the state report, the Committee meets to decide on the list of issues to be raised with the government. In the run-up to this meeting, SALC has prepared a shadow report. Shadow reports are prepared by civil society organisations to highlight concerns that may not be covered – or adequately covered – by the state in the state report.
SALC’s report highlights concerns regarding the compulsory HIV testing of women by police in the country and the public disclosure of their HIV status in court. This is a concern the Committee has raised with Malawi in its previous review. SALC has been involved in the case of S v. Mwanza police challenging the constitutionality of the HIV testing. No decision has yet been taken by the court in this case.
Another concern raised by SALC in the shadow report is the discriminatory application of laws relating to divorce, leading to women being unfairly deprived of property at divorce. The Committee has stated in the past that the application of these laws has lead to inequality in property distribution upon divorce. According to Muluka Miti-Drummond, SALC’s Regional Advocacy Director, “This discriminatory application further presents barriers to accessing property for women that make them vulnerable to HIV and less able to mitigate its impact.” SALC has worked with lawyers and organisations in the county to challenge the application of the laws in court.
Yet another concern raised in the report which the Committee has previously raised relates to the harsh abortion laws. These laws contribute to the high maternal mortality rate in the country.
The report further highlights concerns regarding the criminalisation of same sex acts between women. “SALC is concerned that this criminalisation will limit access to services, including health care services, for lesbian women, as well as those perceived to be lesbian. Furthermore, due to the discrimination women already experience, the additional discrimination based on sexual orientation is likely to affect them to a greater degree than men in a similar position.” Miti-Drummond explained. Such intersectionality is a concern the Committee has identified as falling within its remit.
The organisation’s full report to the Committee can be accessed here: CEDAW Malawi SALC submission FINAL
 Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Malawi, Forty-fifth session, 18 January-5 February 2010, CEDAW/C/MWI/CO/6, paragraph 38  S v Mwanza Police, Mwanza District Hospital, Ministries of Justice, Internal Affairs, Health, Attorney-General and Ex parte: HB, JM (o.b.o 9 others), Mwanza-fact-sheet  Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Malawi, Forty-fifth session, 18 January-5 February 2010, CEDAW/C/MWI/CO/6, paragraph 42  https://www.southernafricalitigationcentre.org/cases/ongoing-cases/malawi-protecting-womens-right-to-property/  Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Malawi, Forty-fifth session, 18 January-5 February 2010, CEDAW/C/MWI/CO/6, paragraph 37. See also CEDAW/C/MWI/CO/5, paragraph 31  Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation No. 28 on the core obligations of States parties under article 2, paragraph 18