Concerned about the situation of children in the country, Malawi’s Center for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) has joined forces with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) to submit a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee).
In July this year, the Committee will carry out its preliminary review of Malawi’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “When Malawi entered into the Convention in 1991, it made commitments to respect and protect the rights of children in the country, but is failing to do so in some areas.” Said Victor Mhango, Executive Director of CHREAA. As part of the review process, in January 2017 the authorities will further stand before the Committee to explain what the country is doing to ensure the rights of all children contained in the Convention are respected and protected. “It is important that as civil society, we contribute to this discussion by highlighting areas of concern in order to assist the government in improving the situation.”
One of the concerns raised by the organisations in the report is the incarceration of primary caregivers, which has also been highlighted by the Malawi press in the past. The organisations point out that holding a child in detention with their mother can negatively impact on the child’s development, but also acknowledge that the separation of mothers or other caregivers from their children has serious negative repercussions for the children. “Neither of these options take into account the best interest of the child as required by the Convention.” Said Nyasha Chingore-Munazvo of SALC, “The authorities need to put in place measures to make alternative, non-custodial sentences the default sentences for primary care givers, or to hand down a custodial sentence for the shortest term that is conceivably commensurate with the offences in question if a custodial sentence is absolutely necessary.” In November 2015, SALC and CHREAA argued for the release of an 18 year old mother and a first time offender on the basis that her detention with her child was not in the best interest of her infant child.The woman was granted bail pending review of her case.
The organisations further highlight the detention of unaccompanied migrant children and the imprisonment of children, including for petty offences. “In such cases the authorities are not only violating Malawi’s obligations under the Convention, but also Malawi’s own national laws, in particular the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act.” Said Victor Mhango.
In addition, the report points out that the provisions of the Constitution indicating that in certain circumstances it may be legal to enter into marriage between the ages of 15 and 18 years, is not only a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Malawi has signed both of these and both set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years. “There is a reason why these treaties set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years. Early marriage can negatively affect the health of a child and impede education” Said Nyasha Chingore-Munazvo. “If Malawi is serious about protecting the life, health and rights of children, it needs to align its Constitution with these treaties by changing the minimum age of marriage to 18 years with no exceptions to ensure that there are no ambiguities in the law.”
The full report to the Committee can be accessed here: Malawi CRC shadow report
For more information:
Victor Mhango, Executive Director, CHREAA, +265 (0) 999952256, email@example.com
Nyasha Chingore-Munazvo, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights Lawyer, SALC: +27 (0)10 596 8538 (o); NyashaC@salc.org.za
 The woman had been convicted and sentenced to 48 months imprisonment with hard labour for burglary and theft. The Applicant was pregnant at the time of her arrest and gave birth in August 2015. SALC and CHREAA requested that the High Court release her in the best interests of her infant child or that in the alternative she be granted bail until review of her case and further order by the Court. She was granted bail pending review.