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Malawi Police discriminate women officers

The system that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) is currently using in the process of allocating service-owned houses to its officers puts the law-enforcing agency in methodical discrimination against all women officers’ married to civilian men.

MPS does not permit women officers who are married to civilians to stay in police owned houses. Ironically, MPS banks on support from civilians to fight crime.

Last month, some women officers had a rude awakening when they were bundled out of the police houses after authorities at Area 30 in Lilongwe, ordered all the four policing regions to get rid of women officers with civilian husbands.

MPS national spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo described it as an administrative issue saying the women who were removed are not the first in the history of the service.

According to Manjolo, if there are any women officers who feel aggrieved by the decision, they are free to channel their concerns to the authorities in the service.

“That is an administrative issue. Don’t you have the rules at your workplace? Each and every department has its own rules and those are the rules in the Malawi Police camp. I can even give you examples of former senior women officers who were staying outside. So, those people who were told to move out are not the first people to be told to go outside. It was there already.

“If any of those officers have any concerns, they know how to channel their problems. Those officers who are complaining know where to channel their complaints,” Manjolo said.

However, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo said unless MPS explains the security logic behind such an arrangement, it is clear that the service practises discrimination against women officers.

“Discrimination is defined as unequal treatment of equals. If somebody is on a particular rank and is entitled to stay in a police house, I don’t think there should be a question of either a woman or a man. It is a clear discrimination against women because marriage does not take anything from the rank and entitlements of a particular person.

“If the man marries and a woman marries, they are in the same situation, so I don’t see the logic in such an administrative arrangement. It is an administrative arrangement which should not be accepted because it is discriminatory,” Mtambo said.

He said the police service must come out clear on the arrangement wondering as to what kind of security threat women officers that marry civilian men pose within police housing lines.

“Does it mean if a woman marries a man, she becomes a threat to the police lines? What is the basis of such administrative arrangement? It is not just a matter of saying it is an administrative arrangement. In security there might be some issues that they look at but I don’t see any serious threat when a woman marries a civilian so much that she cannot have an opportunity to stay in a police house,” he said.

Another rights activist Billy Banda described it as a very retrogressive arrangement that does not reflect a reformed police service.

“It is not recorded anywhere, whether in the constitution and the Police Service Act that women police officers have to marry fellow police officers. That is not the law. If that is administrative issue, somebody, somewhere should be answerable as to why permitting such a retrogressive and undemocratic approach.

“Police officers are neither encouraged nor denied to marry among themselves. It is by chance that at times they marry among themselves. So, denying a woman officer the chance of staying in a police owned house on the basis of their marrying a civilian is total discrimination,” Banda said.

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