- Malawians see gender-based violence (GBV) as the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address.
- But almost two-thirds (65%) of citizens say violence against women and girls in not a common occurrence in their community.
- More than four in 10 citizens (44%) say it is “somewhat” or “very” likely that a woman who reports being a victim of rape, domestic violence, or other GBV will be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community. About the same proportion (43%) consider it “very unlikely.”
- Most respondents (90%) believe that the police are likely to take cases of GBV seriously.
Malawi is party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and has a set of laws and policies aimed at fighting gender-based violence (GBV), including the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the Gender Equality Act, the National Gender Policy, and the National Action Plan to Combat Gender-Based Violence in Malawi 2014-2020 (Ahmed, Changole, & Wangamati, 2021; Government of Malawi, 2014; Government of Malawi, 2015 ).
Yet one-third of Malawian women have experienced physical violence since age 15, one- fifth have suffered sexual violence, and 42% of women aged 20-24 were married before age 18 (UNICEF Malawi, 2020; UN Women, 2022; Melnikas, Mulauzi, Mkandawire, & Amin, 2021). The minister of Gender, Community Development, and Social Welfare has repeatedly called for action against GBV (Gausi, 2022; Sabola, 2021), and on assuming the presidency, Lazarus Chakwera announced plans to seek stiffer penalties against those found guilty of committing GBV and to require that human rights be taught in school (Masina, 2020).
This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2022) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of gender-based violence.
Findings show that Malawians see GBV as the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address. Citizens overwhelmingly reject the idea that a man is justified in using physical force against his wife and express confidence that the police take GBV cases seriously. A majority consider GBV a criminal matter requiring the involvement of law enforcement rather than a private matter to be handled within the family. But almost half also think it’s likely that a woman who reports such violence to the authorities will be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community.