The idea of a man raping his wife is unheard of in many parts of "traditional" Africa. Now it is all over the place in Malawi. For the first time in the country's history, gender activists from developed countries have sponsored the launch of a nationwide campaign for marital rape to be legislated against.
Slogans such as "breaking the silence" and "women standing for their rights and for fair play in marriage" are getting louder as the campaign rolls on. Now Malawian men fear that they would sooner or later be forced to adapt to the "imported" new language and demands of the gender activists.
It all started when 10 Malawian women observed -- from 25 November to 10 December last year -- 16 days of what they called "Activism Against Gender Violence" -- an international campaign originating from the first women's Global Leadership Institute, sponsored by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership, in 1991.
Participants chose 25 November (the International Day Against Violence Against Women) and 10 December (the International Human Rights Day) in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights.
Since the campaign, and with the support of the Women in Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), chapters of women's rights organisations in Malawi have held a series of meetings aimed at forcing the government to change certain "unfavourable sections" in the domestic violence bill that are deemed "not strong enough to protect the interests of women.
Government officials, MPs, traditional chiefs and church organisations were courted by the activists.
Anastasia Msosa, a renowned Malawi Supreme Court judge, said that although marital rape was sidelined as a gender-based human rights violation, "it does exist and women are suffering silently, letting it pass as a family or domestic matter."
She continued: "There is no need to run away from the truth. Marital rape is there. I support the inclusion of rape in the law that Parliament is about to put in place."
Women make up 52% of Malawi's 12 million population. A study carried out by the health...