Religion not a passport for girl child abuse

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WE have heard of success stories on Zimbabwe concerning gender equality, and some women have celebrated the achievement.

The enactment of laws that provide for women’s quota in Parliament has been hailed across the globe and some countries have applauded Zimbabwe for that milestone achievement. But on closer analysis, it would appear like we virtually have no gender equality to celebrate considering that we are turning a blind eye to the plight of the girl child. The story of the late 14-year-old mother-to-be Memory Machaya is heart-rending and represents a much bigger scourge afflicting our communities in the name of religion. The Johane Marange Apostolic Sect has become a cult that has normalised rape and abuse of minors by marrying them off to older men.

They deny girls hospitalisation, even for labour, and they do not immunise their children, all in the name of faith. We are not sure if important documents such as birth certificates are a priority to them.

Yes, the Constitution guarantees the right to religion, but it should not be abused by infringing the girl child’s rights. Government should realise that a right ceases to be a right if it impinges on the right of another. The most distressing part is that the government has not moved an inch to reprimand the Marange rapists. We are tempted to believe  that their wrongdoing is overlooked for political expediency.

Our political leadership and those that advocate for gender equality, human and women’s rights are failing the girl child. If Zanu PF youths can march in solidarity with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, why are they not doing the same to rescue minor girls from the jaws of the monster called Johane Marange sect? If MDC youths can mobilise to demonstrate against the incarceration of fellow activist Makomborero Haruziviishe, why can’t they do the same for Memory?

We are in a society where people can only raise their voices when there are monetary benefits. The police on the other hand issued a statement 22 days after the incident and up to this day no arrest have been made. Are they awaiting a Presidential directive, we wonder? We expect our political leaders to treat child marriage issues with urgency. The Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development ministry is quiet and we hear the minister plans to issue a statement today, in Harare, three weeks after.

The Zimbabwe Gender Commission is also seated comfortably in Harare, and it has not raised a finger. The commission should live up to its mandate and save the girl child. It should not act like politicians who are afraid of disturbing the waters they fish from.