People still unaware of gender, marriage-related laws – govt

Lilongwe: Most communities in the country remain unaware about gender and marriage related laws, a situation which is putting many women at a disadvantage, a government official has said.

Director of Administration in the department of gender MacCallum Sibande said this on Wednesday in Lilongwe. He was speaking during the official opening of a national workshop for the dissemination of gender and marriage related laws for the media.

He said the development comes at a time when some chiefs are on the fore front enforcing marriage and gender laws.

Traditional leaders are doing a lot in enforcing the marriage law by withdrawing underage girls from marriages, but there are still many people out there who are not aware about these laws, said Sibande on the sidelines of the workshop.

He said that this was the reason why the Ministry of Gender, Disability, Children and Social Welfare organised the workshop to orient the media on marriage and gender-related laws for effective communication to the general public.

The presentations at the workshop focused on the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act, Gender Equality Act, Deceased Estate Act and Trafficking in Persons Act.

During discussions, both the presenters and the media practitioners acknowledged that gender issues that disadvantage women and perpetuate stereotypes against them are still rampant in the country, especially in rural setups.

For the country to achieve meaningful development, the media was asked to assist through reporting in promoting women and getting rid of stereotypes that put them to a disadvantage in different situations such as marriage, elections and other areas.

In her presentation, Action Aid Women’s Rights Theme Manager, Chikumbutso Ngosi, stressed the need for journalists to avoid writing stories that perpetuate stereotypes against the women and focus on those that would fight such attitude and empower the women.

However, the media practitioners also urged partners fighting gender stereotypes against women to ensure the laws are simplified, by among other things translating them into vernacular language to enhance understanding among the rural communities most of whom have low literacy.

Malawi is a signatory to a number of conventions that seek to fight discrimination, promote gender equality and put the women at equal footing with men.

Some of them are United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1981), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1990) and the Maputo Protocol (2005).

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA