Malawi

Judge concerned about 'overcriminalisation' of teenage sex

Many teenagers are sexually active but, in its efforts to protect children and vulnerable young people, the law is not always able to act appropriately in response. A significant new decision from the high court in Malawi raises the issue squarely and, in a section headed, ‘Overcriminalisation of factually consensual sexual intercourse’ suggests that South Africa, among others, might have found a suitable approach for the law to take.

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Malawi’s high court judge Vikochi Chima has been reconsidering a case in which Charles Gondwe, charged with ‘defiling’ a girl a couple of years his junior, was acquitted. (‘Defiling’ is the term used in Malawi for rape of a child.)

Malawi paralegal investigation given go-ahead by court

The Malawi law society has lost the first round in its battle over turf: it had asked the high court to squash an investigation being planned by the legal affairs committee of the national assembly. The investigation could see a recommendation that paralegals be allowed to defend certain cases in the magistrates’ courts. However, Judge Mike Tembo refused to stop the inquiry, and said the action reminded the court ‘of the colonial days … in which the law severely limited black people’s political participation’.


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The case was brought by the Malawi law society (MLS) that asked the high court to consider whether hearings planned by the legal affairs committee (LAC) of parliament were legal. The hearings would be to investigate proposed law amendments that might allow paralegals to appear and play a limited role in the lower courts.

Charged and found guilty of ‘being pregnant’, school learners now awarded damages in compensation

A group of pregnant school learners, the boyfriends by whom they were pregnant, and the parents of some of them, have been awarded damages for their ‘arrest’ and conviction under community by-laws. Sentenced to pay fines, they were kept in police cells until the fines were paid in full. Now, however, the fines must be repaid, along with damages. The exact amount of damages due was finalised last week by the assistant high court registrar who also warned that community by-laws did not amount to formal law.

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Five years after being arrested, charged, convicted and fined for ‘being pregnant’, a group of what were, at the time of the arrests, primary school girls, along with boys allegedly responsible for the pregnancies and the parents of some of the youngsters, have been awarded damages.

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