Concerned about the situation of children in the country, Malawi’s Center for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) has joined forces with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) to submit a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

In July, the Committee will carry out its preliminary review of Malawi’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “When Malawi entered into the Convention in 1991, it made commitments to respect and protect the rights of children in the country, but is failing to do so in some areas.” Said Victor Mhango, Executive Director of CHREAA.

As part of the review process, in January 2017 the authorities will further stand before the Committee to explain what the country is doing to ensure the rights of all children contained in the Convention are respected and protected. “It is important that as civil society, we contribute to this discussion by highlighting areas of concern in order to assist the government in improving the situation”, Mhango said.

One of the concerns raised by the organisations in the report is the incarceration of primary caregivers, which has also been highlighted by the Malawi press in the past. The organisations point out that holding a child in detention with their mother can negatively impact on the child’s development, but also acknowledge that the separation of mothers or other caregivers from their children has serious negative repercussions for the children.

The organisations further highlight the detention of unaccompanied migrant children and the imprisonment of children, including for petty offences. “In such cases the authorities are not only violating Malawi’s obligations under the Convention, but also Malawi’s own national laws, in particular the Child Care, Protection and Justice Act.” Said Victor Mhango.

In addition, the report points out that the provisions of the Constitution indicating that in certain circumstances it may be legal to enter into marriage between the ages of 15 and 18 years, is not only a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but also the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Malawi has signed both of these and both set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years.