A Masvingo resident and two human rights organisations have asked the High Court to order Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and the Apostolic Churches Council to mount a campaign denouncing the pervasive practice of child marriages.
In an application filed recently at Harare High Court, Sharon Moffat, a resident of Masvingo, Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) want Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and the Apostolic Churches Council to be ordered to publish at every shrine or every place of worship, a message for 19 consecutive weeks, clarifying, for the benefit of their congregants and adherents, that the marrying or giving in marriage of girl children is not an aspect of their respective faiths and should not be committed in the name of their religion.
Moffat, LRF and WCoZ also want the High Court to order Health and Child Care Minister Constantino Chiwenga, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Hon. Kazembe Kazembe, Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Hon. Sithembiso Nyoni, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Gender Commission and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, to take steps to bring to an end the practice of marrying and giving in marriage of girl children in Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and in Independent African Apostolic Churches represented by Apostolic Churches Council.
The trio want Zimbabwean authorities to conduct an identification of children married in terms of the practice, their removal, from such marriages and placement in places of safety established in terms of the Children’s Act for their rehabilitation.
They also want the activation of the criminal justice system against all men who have married or otherwise have had sexual intercourse with minor children in the name of religion post the decision of the Constitutional Court in Mudzuru and Another v Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Others in Case No. CCZ-12-15 and the publication of a summary of the declaraturs in all national newspapers and on all national radio stations in all vernacular languages.
Moffat, LRF, which is a law-based human rights organisation and WCoZ, a network of women’s organisations involved in the preservation and protection of women’s rights including the rights of children are represented by Paidamoyo Saurombe of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, Advocate Regina Bwanali and Advocate Choice Damiso.
Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne, Apostolic Churches Council, Chiwenga, Ziyambi, Kazembe, Nyoni, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Zimbabwe Gender Commission and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission are cited as respondents to the application.
The applicants argued that some members of the Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne church have taken to marrying and marrying off girl children falsely claiming such practice to be part of their religious beliefs while such a breach has also taken root in most church organisations represented by Apostolic Churches Council.
Moffat, LRF and WCoZ accused Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and Apostolic Churches Council of not taking a position to affirm their true beliefs and faith and to disassociate themselves from their adherents who violate the law in their name.
Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and Apostolic Churches Council, Moffat, LRF and WCoZ argued, had accommodated the criminal practices and given the impression that they not only tolerate them, but that those practices constitute a fundamental component of their faith.
Moffat, LRF and WCoZ want the High Court to declare that the practice of marrying and marrying off girl children to be declared as not an essential element of the religious beliefs of Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and the organisations represented by Apostolic Churches Council and for such practice to be declared to be in breach of sections 19(1), 19(2)(a), 19(2)(d), 19(3)(b)(iii), 26(a), 26(b), 27(2), 51, 53, 78(1), 78(2), 80(3), 81(1)(d), 81(1)(e) and 81(2) of the Constitution.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights