The Association of Social Workers in Malawi (ASWIM) has bemoaned the tendency of careless posting of images of children found in various unfavourable circumstances such as stealing and rape on social media platforms.
In an interview on Friday, the association’s acting National Coordinator, Edgar Kasiyafumbi, said there is an increase in uncensored images being posted by members of the public on social media platforms without protecting the identity of children.
He said the association is greatly concerned with the way children’s images are being circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp groups without any regard to protecting their identities.
"Children are a protected category of human beings; as such they are supposed to be treated with dignity.
“The practice can pose a danger to children as it might give advantage to unscrupulous people to abuse the children in question or make use of the unverified identities disclosed by the public to claim the children," said Kasiyafumbi.
"We are in a world where there is an increase in the number of human trafficking, therefore, perpetrators may also take advantage to target those children who are paraded on social media by irresponsible members of the public," he cautioned.
One of the concerned parents in Area 18 Senti, who sought for anonymity, said one of her tenants' daughters was raped by a 16- year-old boy from within and the video went viral on social media revealing faces of both minors.
She said parents from both sides had no control because of ignorance and thought by doing that, justice would be served quickly.
"I was there when the incident happened. One of the neighbours started shouting, calling for people to come and see what had happened.
“The three year-old girl was there being captured in the presence of the parents who do not know anything about what the law says.
"The video went viral and risked the life of that innocent girl because some people may continuously desire to rape the girl out of curiosity since she has been through that already," said the woman.
On her part, mother of the three year-old girl, who also sought for anonymity, said she was out for a piece work within the area and the boy took advantage of her absence to rape the child.
She said she only came to know about the issue when some neighbours caught the boy in the act.
"I was called from where I was and was told of the incident. They were people taking videos at the scene of the incidence but it never crossed my mind to protect my daughter," said the mother.
She said after the video was posted on social media, a lot of people came forward, some to help and others just to see for themselves which later became a shame to the family.
"It was as if there was a sick child in the house. We had people visiting one after another and we had explained the same issue now and again to people who at the end of the day didn't offer any help," she said.
However, Kasiyafumbi reminded the public there are institutions that look into children’s issues.
“We want to remind the public that there are institutions mandated to look into children’s issues, so it is better that the public should involve such agencies whenever there is an issue concerning children," he said.
As a way forward, the association wants to push for a review of the Electronic Transactions and Cyber Security Act of 2016, so that it includes specific sections to punish those found posting uncensored images of children on social media, especially those in difficult situations.
Concurring with Kasiyafumbi, Chairperson for NGO Coalition on Child Rights (NGO CCR), Desmond Mhango, said his organisation would engage Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to regulate such matters in the country.
"We are appealing to government to revise electronic system which would monitor circulation of such pictures of children," he said.
ASWIM has since advised the public to desist from posting any video with minors in it as victims.