“I have witnessed gross human rights violations against girls in the name of religion”

Female Student Network Trust (FSNT) Assistant Advocacy officer, Molyne Mukomawasha who is a member of the Johane Masowe eChishanu highlighted that during her time in the apostolic sect, she has witnessed gross human rights violations against young girls. This came out during a virtual dialogue meeting organised by FSNT on 19 August 2021. The dialogue meeting brought together multiple stakeholders such as Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) Commissioner Tsungirirai Hungwe-Chimbunde , representatives from the Ministry of Women Affairs, African Union Goodwill Ambassador,Dr Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, representatives from the Victims Friendly Unity, Union for the Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe and Africa representative and several Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The objective of the dialogue meeting was to create urgency among various stakeholders on the need to end child marriages and lobby policy makers on the need to legislate stiffer penalties for child marriage offenders. Molyne highlighted that there are a lot of gross human rights violations taking place against girls in apostolic sects that go unnoticed and reported.

“Early last year at our shrine there was forced and mandatory virginity testing for young girls by older women using fingers. Those who were found not to be virgins were forcefully given away into marriages with older men”, she said.

She further highlighted that ending child marriages requires collective action from everyone and called upon FSNT to continue empowerment and mentorship programmes for young girls that will help them to stand for their rights. “There are still many girls who can be saved just like me. Most of them have been forced out of school yet Section 81 of the Constitution provides for the Rights of Children. This important provision among other things highlights that “every child must be protected from economic and sexual exploitation from any form of abuse”, she said.

ZGC Commissioner, Tsungirari Hungwe highlighted that the ZGC was pushing for the alignment of all policies and laws that prohibits child marriages. “There is need for alignment of laws that prohibit child marriages and have a coordinated response including setting up structures at community level to monitor issues of child marriages”, she said. The Ministry of Women Affairs also highlighted that it has done a lot of work aimed at ending child marriages and was waiting for the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to align all relevant laws that deal with child marriages.

As part of resolutions, participants agreed that there was need for stakeholders to continue lobbying for the enactment of the Marriage and Sexual Harassment Bill. Participants also agreed to continue lobbying Apostolic churches to establish adult and child safeguard protocols to protect the girl child from abuse. In light of this, FSNT was tasked to strengthen existing engagements with Apostolic Sects and continue with its empowerment and mentorship programmes for young girls that will help them to stand for their rights.

The virtual dialogues by FSNT are part of advocacy work aimed at creating a conducive environment for young girls. Since 2005, FSNT has created numerous platforms for girls and female students to organise, interact and share experiences on challenges they face and proffer lasting solutions through lobbying and advocacy initiatives.

Source: Female Students Network

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