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No regrets for ‘obscene’ placard

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During anti gender-based violence protest that civil society organizations organized on Thursday in Lilongwe, police arrested one woman for carrying a placard with vulgar message.

Our reporter Audrey Kapalamula speaks to the woman, Beatrice Mateyu on the matter.

Who is Beatrice Mateyu?

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I am 40-year old human rights activist. Some say I am gender activist who works towards advancing the human rights of women and girls in the country.

What prompted you to carry the placard with such words?

I went to participate in the solidarity march because I believe in the cause and I wanted to be part of the people protesting against gender-based violence in Malawi. I’ve realized that people do things as usual and people forget. But when you came across a strong message, people are able to debate even hours or days after the demonstration. So, in carrying that placard, I wanted to provoke people to be thinking about gender-based violence and to be open when talking about it in their homes and office for days, even weeks.

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How was the message connected to the agenda?

Well, when you look at our community we are a silent community. We don’t call a spade a spade that is why there has been an increase in HIV and Aids in the country. People tend to go around by not saying things as they are. It was in line with that and I was trying to explain that women are much more than their private parts. They should be able to defend their rights and should not be treated as a curse and should not be treated as lesser humans. I believe that I have contributed to achieve the goal that was set for the march. People are still talking about that match until today. This will contribute to a reduction in gender based violence.

But your placard led to your arrest…

My arrest was unnecessary, if police would act in the cases of gender based violence with the speed that they acted with in my case, we would be talking about a different story today because the would-be offenders would be deterred, knowing there is a police that really acts in cases of gender based violence so my arrest was unwarranted and unjustifiable.

What are your friends or relatives saying after the incident?

Some are supporting me, while some are castigating me. That is to be expected. I’m just glad we have achieved what we wanted to achieve. People now understand that gender based violence is wrong and we say no to gender based violence.

What is your final stand in regards to the placard you carried during Thursday demonstrations?

I’m going to continue with my work in promoting human rights of girls and women I don’t regret anything. If was to do it again, I would still do the same thing, I will still be vigilant in promoting the rights of women and girls.

What sort of message would you give to the people who are against the placard?

People are calling the placard immoral but I believe there is nothing immoral in calling a spade a spade. We have a lot of immoral issues that we should address in our society, that deserve the same energy that was channeled towards the issue of the placard. I ask people to take away the energy that has been put towards the placard in making sure that we solve the issues of gender-based violence in our communities. Everyone must ask themselves what they ought to do as individuals to end gender based violence in the country. You see people in the neighborhood seeing their neighbors suffering, but they will remain silent. It is everyone’s duty to end gender based violence.

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