Lilongwe, Malawi — In a grainy mobile phone video that went viral last year, three women are seen stripping another woman naked, pulling her hair, dragging her to the ground and smashing a flower pot over her head.
The video of the assault, filmed by one of the women, spread among closed WhatsApp groups before circulating on Facebook in Malawi. It gripped the country, sparking a national conversation about gender-based violence.
A few days later, an image of the same three women surfaced online. They were pictured topless, sitting on the cement floor of a police station.
While social networks have helped to advance women's rights in Malawi, they've also become an amplifier for an existing culture of abuse.
These are three stories of how women in Malawi have been sexually harassed in public, humiliated online, and subjected to a cycle of shame. Each involves a photograph taken without the women's consent; in two, the women are naked or partially clothed. To highlight the issue at the heart of the story, CNN has chosen to republish the photographs. In order to not further fuel the cycle of shame that the women described, we have removed them from the images.
They attacked a woman, before being stripped themselves
Violence against women in Malawi has long been an issue. According to the 2015-16 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey
, 20% of respondents said they had endured sexual violence and 34% reported they had suffered physical violence.
Patriarchal values only add to the problem. The same su