Member of Parliament for Mzimba North Constituency, Agnes Nyalonje, has said ignorance of gender-related laws among women is a major limitation to access justice whenever they suffer abuse.
Nyalonje said on Friday that the problem of Gender Based Violence (GBV) will not be easy to address should the victims, just like their perpetrators, remain in their current state of unawareness.
“Women need to know the various instruments that can give help and support to women who are experiencing various problems ranging from failed marriages to domestic violence among others. After that, they should be made to understand how they can access justice using such provisions,” Nyalonje explained in an interview.
She, however, said the problem cuts across different cadres of leaders including police officers, teachers and chiefs.
“Police are there to enforce the laws but you will realise that most of them do not fully understand the provisions in such laws, such is the case with teachers and local leaders. So there is need for continuous conversations,” she said.
She further observed that the country is not doing enough in supporting women who have been liberated from various kinds of abusive situations.
“Resources will not be enough, but progress is equally important in everything we do. So this is just the first step, I and my fellow women MPs hope to bring about change by imparting knowledge in our people through various such awareness sessions,” she said.
With support from the UN-Women through the parliamentary women’s caucus, Nyalonje has embarked on a dissemination campaign in her constituency aimed at popularising the newly enacted Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act (2015) and the Gender Equality Act (2013) among others.
One of the participants at Bwengu, Naomi Mhango, cited wife battering and desertion as some of the common acts of violence that women face.
According Mhango, it is high time customs and traditions were informed by the law and not vice-versa.
“Polygamy is a cultural rite and the law does not denounce it as we have learnt but I should mention that there is need to regulate the practice because the more wives a man marries the higher the likelihood of alienation of others, especially the first one,” Mhango said.
The meetings are targeting selected women and youth leaders who will be expected to subsequently cascade the awareness-raising to their catchment areas.