In this latest Legal Observatory, ZLHR describes its legal interventions aimed at forcing the church and others to start preaching against child marriage in order to end the scourge that has plagued Zimbabwe for decades. The government’s rigidity in this area is also underlined. Read on for more information.
Apostolic sect sues for child marriage
Stung by the death of a 14-year-old girl while giving birth in an apostolic church in Marange de St Johanne, a resident of Masvingo and two human rights organizations took legal action to force the church and others to start preaching against child marriage. While Machaya’s case has made headlines around the world and drew condemnation from the United Nations (see page 4), the practice has continued for decades and reports indicate that the practice continues. A religious doctrine which claims that the Holy Spirit can distribute young women to older men within the church is accused of fueling the plague. The church needs to change its ways, and a good start would be to incorporate anti-child marriage messages as part of its weekly gospel, applicants say in their submissions. In the recent summons filed in the Harare High Court, Sharon Moffat, a resident of Masvingo, the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) want the court to order the Marange Apostolic Church of St Johanne and the Council of Apostolic Churches to publish messages indicating that the marriage or marriage gift of girls is not part of their respective denominations.
Teenager’s death sparks outrage over child marriage
Rape sanitized as child marriages. Heartbreaking. Unscrupulous. Alarming. These were the terms used to describe the fate of Anna Machaya, a 14-year-old girl who died giving birth in an apostolic Johanne Marange sect in the Marange region of Manicaland in July. Her “husband” is now charged with murder and sleeping with a minor. Prosecutors say that after getting Machaya pregnant, Evans Momberume took her to the shrine for childbirth. Besides the outcry, the case highlighted a cancer that has plagued Zimbabwe for decades: elderly men hiding behind religious beliefs to rape young girls whom they force to become their wives. Machaya’s case was not the first, nor the last. Over the past decades, thousands of young girls, some barely puberty, have been forced to abandon their childhood for motherhood and marriage. “There is a continuous and uninterrupted practice in religious and cultural sects of rape, child abuse and marriage of young girls, exposing them to child pregnancies and worse,” Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said ( ZLHR), condemning this practice. . Usually forced into membership by brainwashed parents, their dreams and ambitions give way to church doctrine.
Change the gospel, say the lawyers at the church
For decades, the apostolic sect has been associated with child marriages in violation of the laws of the land. Despite operating under the terms of the country’s laws, which criminalize child marriage, religious leaders appear to continue to tolerate such practices. In a recent subpoena filed in the High Court in Harare, Sharon Moffat, a resident of Masvingo, the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) want the church to preach a different gospel. Below are excerpts from the subpoena: “The gospel preached by the first respondent (the Apostolic Church of Marange de St Johanne) and the religious values he espouses are also the hallmarks of over 600 Indigenous African Apostolic Churches represented by the second respondent (Council of Apostolic Churches).
Read the full legal monitor here (539 KB PDF)
Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyers