BELIEVE HER. END
EFFECT, WLSA AND RAPE SURVIVORS IN MALAWI DEMAND ACCESS TO JUSTICE.
in Malawi, e², WLSA (Women and Law Southern Africa), and rape
survivors who have been denied access to justice because of the
corroboration rule, initiated a landmark human rights challenge in
the High Court of Malawi. Click here for photos from todays celebration in
support of: “Believe Her. End Corroboration”.
In Malawi, a girl or woman who is raped can’t report the attack and
expect to get justice. She must “corroborate” the rape, meaning
she has to provide medical evidence or a third-party witness to the
The applicants state that they feel “doubly violated, first by the
depraved perpetrators who raped them, and secondly by the justice
system they relied on to protect their rights and hold the
The corroboration rule results in a lack of faith in the justice
system that deters women from reporting; impunity for the accused,
leaving him free to rape again; and impunity that sends the message
to potential perpetrators that there are no consequences for the
crime of rape, which increases rape rates, and leaves girls/women
vulnerable to more violence.
At age 14, Esther (*not her real name) reported being raped by her
50-year-old pastor, who forced his way into her home while her mother
was away, beat and raped her. Esther contracted gonorrhea as a result
and needed medical treatment for several weeks because of the
severity of her physical injuries. The accused was acquitted because
there was no third-party witness corroborating Esther’s evidence.
Today, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against
Women, Esther and other rape victims in Malawi, with help from the equality effect and
WLSA-Malawi, asked the Courts to address the archaic, international
problem of the “he says/she says” dichotomy in sexual assault law and
end the application of the corroboration rule in sexual assault
The corroboration rule is a law dating back to colonial times, made
when women had little to no legal rights, and were seen as unreliable
witnesses due to their gender. Research actually shows that rape
victims make false allegations in 2-8% of claims, the same rate as
false reports of other crimes.
Malawi’s Constitution includes the right to dignity in court
proceedings, the right to equality and to access justice, and the
right to security of the person. Regional and international human
rights law also protects these rights. The rape survivors in
this landmark case will argue that the corroboration rule results in
the violation of these rights. The case will benefit all 9
million girls/women in Malawi, and girls/women everywhere.
Only in rape claims, are victims of the crime immediately placed on
the defensive. Rape survivors internationally are often assumed
to be lying or seeking revenge, and are blamed for the violence they’ve
experienced. In Malawi, rape survivors are saying “no” to
impunity for rapists, and challenging the law that requires extra
evidence in rape cases because of the corroboration rule.
After the Court filing today, the applicants, WLSA-Malawi, e² and
local stakeholders celebrated with a street procession to mark the
occasion. There was music, theatre, speeches and feasting to
celebrate the initiation of this unique equality claim.
To read Thomson Reuters coverage of the "Believe Her"
claim, click here.
Follow the progress of this innovative case on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/equalityeffect;
and via Twitter: https://twitter.com/@Equality_Effect.