Chiefs in Nsanje have reacted angrily to a survey report which says traditional leaders in Nsanje are soliciting sex from flood victim women in exchange for government donated relief food.
Link for Citizen Empowerment (The Link), a women’s rights body working in Nsanje and several other districts in the country, said hungry and poor girls and women in Nsanje District are forced to sleep with some exploitative traditional leaders in exchange for humanitarian food.
Chief Malemia of Nsanje described the report, published in Weekend Nation newspaper, as silly and aimed at tarnishing the good image of chiefs in the district.
“There is no chief in Nsanje who engages in such malpractices, that is untrue and can never happen,” he said.
He said people should treat traditional leaders with honour and respect instead of sarcasm.
But Link for Citizen Empowerment director Jephter Mwanza, whose organisation carried out the survey, said this came out of the survey carried out in the district.
He therefore said the survey results stand.
Married women, too, are involved in the ‘sex-for-food’ scheme. One such woman, Christina Lobo, also from Mgona Village, said she was in a relationship with an aid worker to get double rations.
Said Lobo as quoted in Weekend Nation: “We offer sex to the elders to keep our positions as well as keep receiving double rations.”
In T/A Makhuwira in Chikwawa, one area development committee (ADC) chairperson, who comes from Chizenga Village, Group Village Head Chizenga, was found in a classroom having sex with a married woman.
Nsanje district commissioner (DC) Gift Rapozo said he is aware of such cases in the district concerning ‘abuses’ of women and girls in relation to relief food and cash although some women and girls are not aware that the malpractices constitute abuse.
However, he said a lot of people cannot come out in the open because chiefs use scare tactics to suppress their subjects.
Said Rapozo in quotes reported by Weekend Nation: “Chiefs are reported to sometimes make announcements to their subjects, threatening to deal with anyone reporting of such malpractices in their villages and this is preventing people from speaking out.”
While Secretary for Gender in the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare Dr Mary Shawa condemned the malpractice.
Said Shawa: “These are sad developments, but we will need to raise awareness against such malpractices.”
Coincidentally, Nsanje is also where an HIV-positive Malawian man was sentenced to 24 months in jail with hard labour for having unprotected sex with newly bereaved widows.
The practice of “widow cleansing”, when a widow must have sex after her husband dies, was outlawed a few years ago.
Eric Aniva, known in Malawi as a “hyena”, admitted to having sex with more than 100 women and girls and not disclosing his HIV status.