Malawi police officers under investigations for sexually harassing female protesters

Photo courtesy of Lameck Masina/VOA

Police officers in Malawi are under investigation by the country’s Police Service over sexual offenses claims against female protesters during the recent post-election demonstrations in the capital, Lilongwe.

Photo courtesy of Lameck Masina/VOA

The probe comes after rights campaigners say they have evidence of sexual harassment, rape and torture of women during the rallies, which often turned violent.

The protests started after demonstrators at Msundwe Trading Centre blocked ruling party supporters from attending a political rally that President Peter Mutharika was addressing.

Female protesters have alleged that police humiliated them in front of their children.

One alleged victim who requested to remain anonymous said, “The police beat us up severely that we were unable to walk. But when we regained strength and walked away, they followed us into our homes where they tore off our clothes and underwear and start touching [us] everywhere.”

Women’s rights group NGO-Gender Coordinating Network said in a statement that it has recorded evidence from several victims including three girls who said police raped them in their homes.

On Friday, the women’s rights campaigners, including the Women Lawyers Association of Malawi and the Women’s legal Resource Centre, held street protests in the capital, Lilongwe, demanding thorough investigations in the matter and the immediate arrest of police officers involved.

But James Kadadzera, the spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service, says it is too early to start arresting anyone.

“There is an inquiry team in place to find out if indeed these allegations leveled against the police are true. So, if the report says the allegations are true, and then it will come up with suspects, so those suspects will now be investigated,” he said.

Malawi has been facing a wave of violent protests since President Peter Mutharika secured a second term in May, which opposition leaders are now challenging in court, seeking a nullification of the presidential election.

According to reports by Voice of America,observers doubt the independence of the police inquiry even as political pundits  in Malawi said allowing the police to investigate its own officers is wrong.