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Senior Chief Chikumbu urges fair by-laws on adolescent sexual health and rights

Senior chief Chikumbu of Mulanje district, who also serves as the girls reproductive justice ambassador for Nyale institute, has called upon her fellow chiefs to enact by – laws that are fairer regarding the sexual health rights of adolescents.

” Chiefs as custodians of the culture, sometimes unknowingly come up with by-laws in our communities that infringes on the sexual health rights of adolescents.” stated Chikumbu.

The senior Chief made this statement on the sidelines of a one day capacity building workshop organised by Nyale institute in Blantyre on Tuesday, June 18th.

The workshop attracted a diverse range of government and civil society stakeholders including social welfare officers, teachers, students, young people and clinicians.

She has vowed to impart the knowledge gained during the workshop to her subjects to insure that the rights of adolescents are not violated.

Senior Chief Chikumbu commended Nyale institute for organising the workshop, describing it as an eye opener.

One participant Deborah Nyanjagha a final year student at exploits University touted the workshop as timely.

” I have learned on how to deal with the challenges that adolescents encounter both at home and school. she said.

Another participant, Michael Mataka from active youth association ( AYA) described the workshop as a game changer, hinted that the knowledge he has gained at the workshop on issues to deal with adolescent sexual health and rights will benefit many who works with their organisation.

In his presentation, Nyale institute executive director Dr Godfley Kangaude who is also a lawyer and scholar on sexual and reproductive justice.

Describe the changes during puberty, including a heightened interest in romance and intimate relationships as normal.

” Sometimes adults are scared when adolescents starts to exhibit romantic behavior and react by punishing them, including using the law when instead they should offer guidance and support.” he said.

Dr Kangaude then explained the history of section 138 of the penal code and how the provision has been used to punish adolescents for engaging in sexual conduct that is otherwise developmentally normal.

On February 21, 2023 the Malawi government gazetted the penal code amendment act no.8 of 2023.

The new section 138 provides for the offence of sexual intercourse with a child, yet it also criminalises sexual conduct between an 18 year old and a 17 year old which one participant described as ‘ absurd.’

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