The police in Malawi have issued an arrest warrant for a budding local hip-hop artist behind a new song rights activists say promotes violence against women. The title of the song is “Rape,” and the government censorship board is also reviewing it amid calls that it be banned.
Local artist Mwiza Chavula raps in the Chichewa language, which is widely spoken in Malawi.
In his latest song, a man is telling a woman long refusing his sexual advances that he will one day get her drunk, seal her mouth with a tape or socks, and rape her. The song ends with the sound of a woman crying.
The spokesperson for the Malawi National Police, James Kadadzera, told VOA authorities are seeking Chavula for questioning.
“We are looking for the artist for questioning. Wherever we may find him, we will definitely pick him. I will not say much now, but I will divulge more information once he has been interviewed,” he said.
Chavula released the song in December, it gained momentum on social media in early January. The public backlash was swift. Women’s groups took to social media under the hashtag #arrestchavula. Several popular online music distributors, like MalawiMusic.com, pulled the song and apologized.
“It is a bad song, that, you know, even as a parent you would not want your child to listen or to get hold of that content or to be given air time in a normal society where human rights are entrenched in our constitution,” says U.N. Women gender activist Habiba Osman, who works in the capital, Lilongwe.
The artist, Chavula, has apologized on his Facebook page and in interviews with local media.
But Osman says an apology is not enough.
“I think we really need to go beyond saying ‘sorry,’ she said. “So what we need to do is to really reflect, as a nation, beyond what this song is projecting; our attitudes toward violence against women and girls. Is it something that we should look at as if it is normal? Because if people are free to express such thing of content in a song, it means maybe society treat this things as normal.”
Calls for censorship
Organizations, including the Women Legal Resource Center, are calling on the Malawi Censorship Board to ban Chavula’s song from radio and TV on moral grounds.
Chief censorship officer Humphreys Mpondaminga told VOA the board is reviewing the case.
“Once we are done, we will communicate to the media. For now, let us remain quiet until we do a fair job of assessing the song first,” he said.
“Already it [the song] has given a threat to a lot of many people, including myself,” says girls’ rights campaigner Cathy Kita. “I would not be comfortable like walking in the street, then someone sing that song coming from my back because next thing I am thinking is, what they gonna do?”
The artist told the local radio station that in part two, which is yet to be released, the man in the story gets arrested.
“Maybe people should hear part two if they are willing to, but if they do not want to hear part two, fine, but for me, as a musician, I was not trying to offend anybody with the song,” he said.
A ban would prohibit public performance of the song including broadcast on local radio and TV stations.
But even though popular local sites have deleted the song, it can still found circulating in online chat groups.