Attacks on women in Malawi: The explosion of high social tensions?

Wednesday 18th, January 2012 / 22:11 Written by

 The incidents occurred for the first time on this week’s Tuesday in Malawi’s capital city Lilongwe: Supposed young street vendors attacked women who were wearing trousers, short skirts or leggings which are currently in fashion. Several Malawian newspapers as well as Internet mediums reported of ugly scenes throughout Malawi’s largest cities on Tuesday and Wednesday.


Young men who were following and finally attacking women who were in their eyes not dressed properly ruled the scenes a passer-by could observe. In some cases the attacked women were stripped off their cloths. After the first incidents around Shoprite and other shops in the capital Lilongwe happened, women were hiding in shops or staying at home to avoid the embarrassing attacks. reports that the young attackers were shouting at women

Go and get dress up properly not the way you have put on. The President has said any woman who puts on a trouser is like a doll.”

Such arguments of the young men draw a parallel to the former restricted freedom of dressing and prohibited Western cloths under the former one party dictatorship of President Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda.


Since these first attacks in Lilongwe others were also reported from the Northern Mzuzu and the country’s economic capital Blantyre in the South.


Meanwhile Vice President Joyce Banda condemned the assaults on women and referred to the freedom of dressing that is part of the Malawian constitution.

Whether women want to put on a nightdress and go to church or market, it’s their choice so long as they have dressed up.”

According to she further said:

Vendors should know that when they attack women, they are attacking their mothers and sisters.”


The police has reported so far about the successful arrest of 15 suspected thugs in Lilongwe. They are hold responsible for the infringements in women’s rights. Moreover they guarantee to protect any woman in the country and put a stop to the attacks.

Besides that the suspicion arose that the responsible men were actually not street vendors but some of the jobless youths that currently rule the picture in many areas of the country. While Malawi faces a chronic fuel shortage, the decline of the currency’s value, high social and political tensions, a high rate of unemployment particularly affects the youth. A certain hopelessness resulting from difficult circumstances and missing perspectives create anger among people, which can result in such actions. But still this cannot be seen as an excuse for the occurring attacks on women. The police and the political leaders need to face that problem in the near future before such mode of hopelessness becomes an even bigger problem that can one day maybe not be controlled anymore.

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About the author

Fields of work: Environment, Fisheries, History, Countries: Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Zimbabwe Part of since: January 2011

View all articles by David Drengk

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