Opposition Members of Parliament have asked government to ensure protection of Malawi’s women from exploitation by foreign businessmen.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader in Parliament George Chaponda said on Monday that Malawi needs a law that would protect Malawi women from being abused by foreigners who marry them to acquire business licenses and citizenship status.
Chaponda said this while contributing to debate on the Business Licensing bill which repeals and replaces Chapter 39:03 of the Laws of Malawi.
The bill seeks to make simpler and more transparent licensing regulations to support quick business start-up.
It also provides for eligibility of business license applicants especially foreigners who must have a valid immigration permit or refugee status.
But Chaponda said he was not satisfied with the provision saying it should state clearly that no license would be granted to a foreign-owned business backed by a Malawian woman.
“Foreign men are cunning. They start business by marrying Malawian women for the sake of the business license. These things happen and we don’t do anything,” Chaponda said.
Chaponda suggested that Malawi should adopt what happens in Ethiopia where a foreign man married to an Ethiopian forfeits his business proceeds and capital if he decides to leave the country.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MP for Dedza North West Alekeni Menyani said some of the relationships come in the form of a partnership between a local business woman and foreign man to start a business to circumvent certain procedures.
“How will we know that some of these business people have no interest but come to Malawi and use it as money laundering stage rather than investing for the benefit of Malawi,” Menyani said.
Minister of Justice Ralph Kasambara described the issues brought by the two MPs as “dicey” but said the law has in-built mechanisms to check against such practices.
“Non-Malawian business owners who want to use fronts to circumvent the law will be caught. But its true marriages of convenience by foreign business owners should be looked into,” Kasambara said.
Currently, citizenship laws allow a foreign woman who marries a Malawian man to be granted citizenship but a Malawian woman who marries a foreign man has to renounce her citizenship.