One of the largest Apostolic sects in Zimbabwe has rolled out a campaign against child marriages and is urging its members to desist from marrying off their under-age children.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Johanne Masowe WeChishanu leader in Bulawayo Emmanuel Mutumwa last week led a campaign that saw him also leading fellow church members in a street march at Cowdray Park high-density suburb against child marriages.
Apostolic sects are often accused of being the main drivers of child marriages in the country.
Mutumwa told journalists that the Johanne Masowe WeChishanu sect had now adopted zero tolerance towards child marriages and sexual abuse of minors.
“To curb child marriages, we have also opened Gender and Child Care Unit desks at the church which look out for such matters, helping in getting offenders arrested for the crime,” Mutumwa said in an interview.
“We are also going around addressing all churches under our council, warning them that anyone discovered to have married a child, will suffer the consequences of not only ex-communication, but arrest.”
According to a 2012 United Nations study, one in three girls in the developing world gets married before they reach 18 years.
Mutumwa added: “We will not allow our members to use or hide under church beliefs. We will assist in every way to ensure the law brings perverts who hide behind religion, to book. We are actually helping by handing over such people to the police.”
In Zimbabwe, child marriages and forced marriages are illegal, but reports show that an estimated 34% of girls will be married by the time they are 18 years old.
The Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] governing civil marriage, states that the minimum age of marriage is 16 years for females and 18 for males.
In January 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that section 22(1) of the Marriage Act that permitted children under the age of 18 to marry violated the constitution.