Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) executive secretary Kenneth Mtata has challenged churches to fight gender injustice and to work hand-in-hand with the police and civic society organisations to ensure that those who commit gender-based violence (GBV) are brought to book.
BY FARAI MATIASHE
Speaking at the launch of the Speakout campaign by churches at the Catholic Cathedral in Harare yesterday, Mtata said it was possible that society can unite to suppress justice and it is the duty of the church to put in place counter measures.
“The only way in which the church can stop GBV is through ensuring that we don’t have impunity for those who commit such crimes. In other words, the church will need to work with various systems of justice so that they are independent enough to pass judgments on those who commit different crimes,” he said.
“I know a recent story where I come from where a teacher raped a student and the teacher was advised by some people to go and talk with the parents of the child and the parents agreed with the teacher that he could pay a small amount of money. The police were informed and they said it would not be considered a crime. So, it is very possible that the whole society can connive and suppress justice. Where can people run to?”
Mtata said the church must be a place where people find justice after they cannot find it anywhere and that can only happen when the leadership, women and young people in the church are not only speaking out but are also demonstrating their commitment to gender justice.
He said the church needed to be constantly speaking against GBV.
“If we are going to arrest the issue of violence in our families we will need to start to speak the message of peace. We will need to preach peace. Those who have assessed those who unleash violence on others have discovered that they tend to be more organised than those who are preaching peace. We are saying as churches, if any members of society are violated, we are all violated,” Mtata said.
Speaking at the same event, Johanne Masowe yeChishanu, Chishawasha member Charity Kangoro said men, including church leaders, should not misinterpret the Bible to justify their abuse of women.
“To all women out there, I am pleading with you to speak out. Whenever you get abused go and report. We have mechanisms in place like Musasa Project or even to go to the police. Don’t’ allow men to abuse you,” she said.
ZHOCD consists of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Zimbabwe Council of Churches and Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe.
According to the latest Zimbabwe health demographic survey, more than one in three married women aged 15-49 experience spousal violence.
One in three girls is married off before she turns 18, often to an older man and the underlying causes range from poverty to patriarchy.