The Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA) has taken a bold step towards eradicating Gender-Based Violence (GBV) within its churches.
During the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV Churches Campaign in Bulawayo, UDACIZA provincial chairperson, Bishop Edson Shamu, acknowledged the prevalence of harmful practices that contribute to GBV within the apostolic church sector.
“Gender equality and gender equity have been a major concern in apostolic environment churches,” Shamu stated. “These practices have been perpetrated either alone or with the consent of the female community due to insufficient knowledge of their rights.”
He said there is a need to develop a tool that will guide the church in dealing with GBV.
“We recognise that achieving progress in women and girl child empowerment requires us to work together with other development partners,” Shamu stated. “In light of this, we felt the urgent need to develop a tool that will guide us in our gender-based violence, gender equality, and gender equity interventions. This tool will be instrumental in helping us transform those aspects of our behaviour and practices that perpetuate GBV”.
Shamu said as a church they have a belief that their pregnant women should not be touched by anyone, especially men.
“When women go to hospital when they are pregnant, it makes us lose our norms, the doctors will touch them inappropriately, where will the doctor touch when they are delivering and we then prefer to do this on our own but we have complications again in that practice, all that leads to confusion,” he said.
He added, “Most women and girls suffer genital mutilation and not given any pain killers, we are saying those who were trained on this should do this.”
Shamu said in the apostolic churches, women are not allowed in leadership positions as they go through menstrual cycles and they will be considered not clean.
“There is another issue where faith healers pray for their clients in secluded places and fondling of breasts and touching of other private parts often leading to indecent assault, sexual abuse and rape, we are saying no to this,” he said.
Shamu said as a church they also conduct virginity tests which publicly shame young girls.
“After the virginity test, girls should carry leaves symbolising their status, if that leaf has holes, it represents the status of the girl, as a church we are saying no to that because it means if that child comes in a queue with other girls, the whole church will see that,” he said.