The Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) has submitted a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on Child Rights, but the report paints a gloomy picture on the welfare of children in the country.
In a statement released on Monday, Chreaa said despite signing a number of international agreements on child rights, Malawi is failing to adhere to such fundamentals which call on governments to protect and promote children’s rights.
In an interview, Chreaa’s programmes manager Chikondi Ngwira said despite making strides in other aspects such enactment of the new Marriage Act and the Child Protection Act, there still remains more that needs to promote the lives of children.
“We are much concerned with the rights of children especially in prisons where they are incarcerated with their mothers. In prisons, there is no antenatal care and when the children are left home there is nobody to take care of them.
“We want the courts to look at caregivers not only as offenders but consider the responsibility they have towards their children,” said Ngwira.
Under Malawian law, any breastfeeding infant child of a female prisoner may be received into prison with his or her mother. After reaching the age of three, he or she is to be separated from their mother and placed in the care of relatives or friends or a welfare authority.
Malawi has over 18 children in its prisons from 16 mothers serving various sentences.
But Ngwira said separation of mothers or other caregivers from their children has serious repercussions for children as they get traumatized and are unable to comprehend the reasons for separation, therefore likely to suffer from acute emotional and developmental problems.
The report has been jointly submitted with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC).