The lady who stirred controversy over an explicit placard she hoisted during a protest march against Gender Based Violence in Lilongwe is defiant and says given a chance, she would do it again.
The gender activist, Beatrice Mateyu, who was arrested for carrying the placard some deemed vulgar, has said the country will continue registering increased cases of gender-based violence if people fail to speak out clearly on issues affecting them.
Lingadzi Police on Thursday arrested Mateyu over the placard she carried during the anti-gender based violence protest that Civil Society Organisations organised.
However, Mateyu said she does not regret carrying the placard as she wanted to tell the society that women should not be reduced to being objects for their private parts, but should be treated as human beings.
“If you look at our community we are a very silent one. We don’t call a spade a spade. We like going around issues. That is one of the reasons why we have a high prevalence rate of HIV and Aids in the country. People like to divert. When I carried the placard I wanted to provoke people to openly discuss the issues that affect the society. When you look at the message that was carried, it was talking about how women are reduced to their private parts and should not be treated as lesser mortals,” she said
Mateyu also said the message was to encourage women to own their bodies and to ably defend their rights.
She said her arrest was unjustifiable and she will continue fighting for the rights of women and children in the country.
“People are calling the placard immoral but I believe there is nothing wrong with it. We have a lot of immoral issues that need the same energy we have dedicated to the issue of placard. I urge people to take the message that violence against women is wrong and see how they can contribute to end that.”
She added, “People are castigating me but I believe that I have contributed to achieve the goal set for the march. I believe it will contribute to the reduction of gender-based violence that is affecting our women and girls. I will continue defending the rights of women and girls. I do not regret doing it. Given a chance, I can do it again.”
Police said the message on the placard was insulting the modesty of a woman, contrary to laws of the country.
She was granted bail the same day.
The matter has greatly divided opinion among the public, with some people arguing there was nothing wrong with what was written on the placard.
They point out that had the same message been scribbled in English, there would not have been a huge uproar which shows that Malawians are fond of applying double standards.
Those who are conservative are lauding the police, stressing that people should be aware that exercising one’s rights comes with responsibility.
Mateyu is a second born in a family of four children and holds a Masters degree in gender, women and society from Ireland University College of Dublin.
She was non committal when asked about her marital status, only revealing that she has three children of her own.
She insist she is not a sex worker,adding she has worked for diferrent organisations.
Mateyu comes from Msambakusi Village, Traditional Authority Malenga in Ntchisi.
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