Religion, a cover for perpetrators of gender based violence

By Sethulo Moyo

Church leaders have warned communities about religion being used as a cover by perpetrators of Gender Based Violence.  

Speaking during a discussion held at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) American Space last week, Reverend Frank Mhlanga a marriage counsellor, Senior Pastor and Founder of Hamba Vangeli Christian Ministries, said pastors in churches need to stop engaging in sexual activities with the congregation for it is abuse and a form of Gender Based Violence that people do not yet realise.

“Young girls are scared to say no, all in the name of being saved and pastors also abuse them in the name of saving them. There is also abuse of authority that leaves girls vulnerable. All they can do is submit to the pastors and they get abused.” said Mhlanga.

Pastors when teaching about marriage at churches focus more on the side of women than the side of men that leaves women vulnerable and also quote verses that talk more of women than men, says Reverend Mhlanga.

“The verse in the Bible that says women should be submissive to their husband leaves women to be vulnerable to abuse from their husbands. Also divorcing is not holy in Gods eyes and that leaves women to be trapped in abusive marriages. Three women die every day because of domestic violence” added Mhlanga.

One of the guest speakers, Mai Margaret Mwamuka a host of Highly Lifted up Worship Galas said that violence happens in churches and also abuse happens because at times women in church turn out to be weak and church leaders take advantage of it.

“ There is a lot of temptation that happens in churches when it comes to weak leaders. Churches bring in teachings that make women and men understand their positions but some leaders then abuse this and end up abusing the women congregants in the church” said Mwamuka

One of the participants speaking during the discussion pointed out that the issue of getting divorced was not allowed in churches, leaving women to be continuously abused in the name of religion.

“Even if I am abused in my marriage I cannot get out of it because the word says divorcing is an abomination in Gods eyes, therefore the abuse will continue” says Sarudzai Nyandoro.

Mhlanga quoting from the Bible said women are created to be helpers. But it does not mean that they should sit at home and do nothing to help with the income at home.

“Women should learn to do things on their own. They should not just sit at home and do nothing and wait for the husband to bring in income. This is what leads to abuse from the husbands as they will become frustrated because of income issues especially looking at the economy crisis at hand” the Reverend said.

The meeting was organised by the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) together with Amakhosikazi Media to raise awareness on the role of social structures like the church in curbing or promoting Gender Based Violence. The public discussion was themed; Religion and African tradition or culture’s role in promoting and curbing GBV.  16 days of activism is commemorated annually on a global scale to raising awareness on gender based violence. 

 An alarming number of women reportedly die daily due to gender based violence and religion has been pointed out as one of the systems that is preventing the effective curbing of the practice especially among church members who refuse to speak up, while those who do are often told to practice patience and submission as commanded in many religious doctrines.