Churches slam child marriages, police and govt lethargy

By Nkosana Dlamini

Local churches coalescing under the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) have joined the growing chorus of condemnation against forced child marriages in the name of faith and has taken a swipe at authorities for failure to arrest a man linked to the marriage and subsequent death of Memory Machaya.

Machaya, the 14-year-old girl who died last month while giving birth at the Johani Marange shrine, has made become the rallying point of a broader campaign against rampant child marriages in the country.

Her plight has ignited public outrage with echoing calls of arrests and a firmer hand against religious institutions that solemnise child marriages in the name of church doctrines.

Police, despite acknowledging her case, are yet to make any arrests on those involved in Memory’s misfortune amid beliefs politicians were blocking the process for fear of losing votes.

The Zanu PF led government draws significant support from the giant vapostori congregation in the country.

In a statement, ZHOCD said “The suggestion that the perpetrator and his church are being protected because they command a large constituency and hence make up a large potential voters, is not only worrying but causes so much discomfort.”

The church group also slammed authorities for sweeping many similar abuse cases under the carpet.

“We totally reject the abuse of women and girls as a misrepresentation and perversion of the Christian faith,” said the church group.

“We call upon churches to stop protecting perpetrators and report all forms of abuse of women and girls in their midst.

“We call upon the ZRP to make public the process of investigation of Memory’s case including stating if the accused is arrested.

“We are calling for an independent national inquiry into sexual abuse of women and girls subjected to sexual abuse in Church and in the broader society.”

ZHOCD dismissed any conceptions the marrying of children was biblical saying the scriptures show God’s concern for the vulnerable.