In this latest legal monitor ZLHR outlines its legal interventions in seeking to force the church and others to start preaching against child marriages so as to end the scourge which has plagued Zimbabwe for decades. Also highlighted is the government’s rigidity concerning the matter. Read on to get more insights.
Apostolic sect in court over child marriages
Stung by the death of a 14-year old girl, while giving birth at a Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne, a Masvingo resident and two human rights organisations have gone to court to force the church and others to start preaching against child marriages. While Machaya’s case made global headlines and attracted condemnation from the United Nations (See page 4), the practice has been ongoing for decades and reports indicate that the practice is continuing. A religious doctrine that claims the holy spirit can distribute young girls to older men within the church is blamed for fuelling the scourge. The church has to change its ways, and a good start would be to incorporate anti-child marriage messages as part of its weekly gospel, say the applicants in their submissions. In the summons filed recently at Harare High Court, Sharon Moffat, a Masvingo resident, Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) want the court to order the Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and the Apostolic Churches Council to publish messages indicating that the marrying or giving in marriage of girl children is not an aspect of their respective faiths.
Teen’s death sparks child marriage outrage
Rape sanitised as child marriages. Heartwrenching. Unscrupulous. Alarming. These were the terms used to describe the fate of Anna Machaya, a 14 year-old girl who died while giving birth at a Johanne Marange apostolic sect in Manicaland’s Marange area in July. Her “husband” is now being charged with murder and for sleeping with a minor. Prosecutors say after impregnating Machaya, Evans Momberume took her to the shrine for child birth. Apart from the uproar, the case brought to the fore a cancer that has plagued Zimbabwe for decades: old men hiding behind religious beliefs to violate young girls whom they force into becoming their wives. Machaya’s case was not the first, nor the last. Over the past several decades, thousands of young girls, some barely into their puberty, have been forced to surrender their childhood for motherhood and marriage. “There is an on-going and unabated practice in religious and cultural sects of rape, child abuse, and marrying-off young girls, exposing them to child pregnancies and worse,” said Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), condemning the practice. Usually forced to be members by indoctrinated parents, their dreams and ambitions give way to church doctrine.
Change the gospel, lawyers tell church
For decades, the apostolic sect has been associated with child marriages in violation of the country’s laws. Despite operating under the terms of the country’s laws, which criminalise child marriages, church leaders seem to continue to condone such practices. In summons filed recently at Harare High Court, Sharon Moffat, a Masvingo resident, Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) want the church to preach a different gospel. Below are excerpts from the court summons: “The gospel preached by the first defendant (Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne), and the religious values it espouses are also the hallmark of the more than 600 Indigenous Apostolic African Churches represented by the second defendant (Apostolic Churches Council).
Read the full Legal Monitor here (539KB PDF)
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights