For the past 22 years, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association has always noted with disturbing concern that there is violence and the abuse of the rights of women and children within the “sects” of the “Vapostori” church. Whilst the allegations would for the most years go unreported and have in most circumstances seemed hard to investigate from the position of an NGO, it is disturbing to note that indeed the allegations are true. The allegations of violence and abuse of women and children’s rights having been there for decades where confirmed by recent events which saw “more than six riot police officers, journalists and members of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) seriously injured after rowdy members of an apostolic sect attacked them with knobkerries and stones in Harare’s Budiriro suburb” as reported by The Herald of 3 June 2014.
The reported incident is said to have happened after “ACCZ executive president Archbishop Johannes Ndanga announced that the church led by Madzibaba Ishemael Mufani had been banned from operating in Zimbabwe because it was violating the country’s laws and that of Christianity by denying over 400 children of school going age access to education, severe abuse of church congregants and their families or relatives”. It is now further reported that the members of the apostolic sect arrested have no identity documents which also means that their children might not have identity documents.
It is important for every Zimbabwean to know that there is no church or religion above the provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The Constitution shuns any violence against all Zimbabwean citizens including women stating in section 52 that every person has the right to freedom from all forms of violence both in public and private sectors. Further, all the rights in the Constitution are also children’s rights as such children have a right to education regardless of the religious inclinations of their parents, they have the right to human dignity, to personal security and to privacy which includes the right not to have their bodies abused by testing their virginity. Children have the right not to be married or given into marriage, forcefully or willingly until they are 18 years of age. The Constitution particularly protects children in section 81 stating that children have the right to be provided a birth certificate, to be protected from maltreatment and abuse, to health, shelter and nutrition. The Constitution by giving children the right to family and parental care mandates the parent to ensure that every child enjoys his/her Constitutional rights. If the parent is incapable of protecting the child or is responsible for the abuse of the child’s right on the basis of religion or otherwise, the parent is guilty of violating the child’s right and must be investigated This will ensure that prosecutions are done because the child is entitled to adequate protection by the Courts in particular the High Court which is the upper guardian of the child. ZWLA therefore recommends the following:
- The state should take its role of protecting the rights of women and children and initiate an investigation of various actions of religious sects with the view to prosecuting those who are abusing women and children’s rights
- We also urge the public to appreciate the gravity of the offences which might be detrimental to the development of the girl child and subsequent development of the nation.
- We also call upon all heads of Christian denominations to ensure that doctrines in their various denominations are subject to the rule of law and the provisions of the Constitution.