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Views and comments on apostolic faith churches' health policy
Betty Makoni, Director - Girl Child Network
May 06, 2005

"Early Marriage of Girls in Some Apostolic Sects Is an Emergency"

Girl Child Network would like to welcome the recently and widely media publicized proposed Health Policy by the leaders of the Apostolic Faith Churches (Herald of 4 May 2005 and the ZBC news bulletin). However, the government, other churches, NGOs should speedily come aboard and save many girls from early forced marriages and virginity testing. Of late Girl Child Network is concerned with the increasing number of girls escaping forced marriages from especially Johanne Marange Apostolic Faith church. Recent media reports n the Herald carried out a story of an eleven year old girl who was married off by church elders because during virginity testing exercise they found her sexually abused.

  • Whereas Apostolic churches are set to revise their health policy, Girl Child Network appeals to government to make the issue of early marriages an issue as enshrined in the Child Sexual Offences Act. Many girls under 16 years especially in the Johanne Marange church are at risk of developing cancer or HIV and AIDS or both if the health policies in the country are not implemented to the full. Our experience on the ground paints a sorry sight where women and girls are found in sexual slavery and they toil and labour daily to fend for children.

  • Most girls in some apostolic churches end their education at grade 7. Even if the health policy was to be in place, the Education policy in the Apostolic churches leaves a lot to be desired. GCN calls upon the churches to consider education as key to the future development of women and the churches should prioritise this.

  • Girl Child Network is concerned about the number of girls married under the guise of religion. Most young girls are forcibly married off to older men and recently we had scores of girls escaping their homes for safe shelter from places like Bocha, Macheke and Mutasa, just to mention a few.

  • Implementation of such a health policy needs to integrate with government policies which over ride any policy. It is regrettable that Zimbabwe has allowed church policies that allow marrying off of girl children as young as 11 years to older men, given the rampant child sexual abuse in the country. The repercussions of early marriages are a health time bomb which, as a country need to be managed now and in the near future. No religious or cultural policies or laws should over-ride government policy. To that end GCN calls upon police and other law enforcement agents to ensure that the Children’s Protection and Adoption Act, Sexual Offences Act and many other laws that protect children from any sexual activities that are harmful are implemented in the best interest of the children.

  • Girl Child Network calls upon all stakeholders to come aboard and take sexual abuse of young girls in Apostolic churches to be an emergency as many of the girls we have interacted with demonstrate ill health and with their situation perpetuated by poverty and closely guarded from the public eye by patriarchy and cases of rape guised in church marriages rampant and encouraged and supported by church elders.

  • Whereas the health policy is negotiable, sexual abuse of girls under the guise of religion is not negotiable and should be prevented and totally eliminated!

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