Cyclone Freddy, which hit Malawi in March of 2023, devastated the lives of many people in some parts of the southern region of Malawi. A lot of people lost their lives, and property and many others were left destitute as their houses and food were washed away by the cyclone-induced floods.

Unfortunately, some individuals capitalized on the situation to carry out their malicious deeds. One such case was reported to YONECO district office in Blantyre in October, 2023. The reported case involved a 15-year-old girl who was alleged to have been sexually abused by a 34-year-old man. The Standard 7 student at Kapeni Primary School was lured by the promise of getting some doughnuts into the house of a man who defiled her.

The survivor kept the ordeal a secret under the threat of being killed by her assailant if she told anyone. The incident happened in August of 2023 but it came to light two months later when the girl’s mother discovered that her daughter had fallen pregnant.

The girl narrated what happened on the day she experienced the traumatic incident at the hands of a man who is older by over half her age.

The survivor’s uncle was informed of the incident and, together with other relatives, agreed to confront the perpetrator and force him to marry the expectant girl. After being left at the man’s house, the girl’s relatives sternly warned her to stay at her ‘matrimonial’ house or face a severe beating upon returning to her parents’ home. The case meant one mouth less to feed hence the parents and relatives simply perceived this as an opportunity and not an abuse that the girl suffered.

However, the man chased her the next morning and the girl was destitute and she had nowhere to go. Fortunately, a neighbour reported the matter to YONECO. The case was immediately referred to the Police who interviewed the girl and a medical examination also revealed that the girl was two months pregnant.

This led to the arrest of the assaulter on 19 October 2023 to answer charges of child sexual abuse under Section 138 (1) of the Penal Code of Malawi.

YONECO engaged the parents and relatives of the minor to educate them about the legal implications that are associated with forcing a child into marriage and the legal implications of child neglect. With their understanding, the parents joined YONECO in following up on the case till it was concluded in court.

After being found guilty by the court, the man was handed a 21-year prison sentence.

YONECO has scheduled Psychosocial counselling sessions for the girl who intends to return to school after delivery.


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