ZIMBABWE’S traditional religious leaders have defended their culture saying it does not condone gender based violence.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
This emerged during an SRHR Africa Trust (SAT) organized dialogue marking the end of the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence.
At a time when the blame is always thrown at traditional leaders, the chiefs said they yearn to work with organisations well versed in this controversial issue. Chief Chimoyo from Mashonaland East Province said these organisations will capacitate them in handling such issues.
“Every time we sit for our kraal cases issues of GBV take centre stage. There are many cases of these. We are looking for these organisations dealing with issues of GBV to come and see how we do these cases and direct us on how to handle these issues,” he said.” These issues have been discussed for a long while. It is my hope that we proffer solutions as we discuss. This eases our job when we make these rulings at our areas.
“Its true we get these issues and many we fine them for these incestuous marriages. We do not condone that. Relatives don’t marry. We are saying lets go to the drawing board and give a list of our demands and we also discard some issues so that we live happily in our communities.”
Chief Mangwende said, “It’s true in our sittings these are the hot issues. We think here is we can get our answers so that when we give our rulings, we are capacitated and know the appropriate verdict. Let me give you an example. A marriage of 12 years, the husband just faces the walls with the wife jotting down what happens. She reported her issue to the chief. She says her husband does not satisfy her well sexually. She says she found someone who was considerate,” he said.
Chief Gambiza from Midlands Province said they do not condone GBV against women, young girls, young boys and men.
“So we say no woman or girls should be subjected to GBV in our communities. As chiefs call for stiffer penalties of perpetrators of GBV to avoid cases where these people become serial rapists.
When a child is raped let’s make sure they get assistance such as healthcare early to avoid them having STIs and HIV,” said the 22 year old Chief.
SAT Zimbabwe Country Director Dr Mildred Mushunje said their event brought together youths, chiefs and religious leaders under one roof to discuss issues of GBV.
“The chiefs are very adamant that GBV is nota cultural practice nor a traditional practice. The religious leaders are also saying GBV is not a religious practice. Definitely there is a disconnect somewhere where we are saying there are harmful practices perpetuating GBV. We had said the practices are cultural but the cultural leaders say they do not condone GBV,” she said.
She added that this means is that as GBV practitioners they need to engage at all levels.
“We need to engage with the traditional and religious leaders and really find out what perpetuates this violence. Is it a question of attitudes, norms and values used in upbringing?,” Dr Mushunje said.
Dr Mushunje said mothers have a very important role in shaping up a future non-abusive husband or wife.
“We had one representative from the religious who said children are socialized and brought up by women. So if a woman abuses a child, that child will grow up as an abuser. Where a child is spanked, violated emotionally, that child will become an abuser. In a way, women as they socialize their children are responsible for the product that comes out,” she said.
Munesu from the transgender communitty said when they bring their GBV cases to the chiefs they wish to be heard.
“”Transgender people are there in the communities you work with. If they present themselves with cases, give them an ear. We exist and do not deprive us of our rights as humans,” he said.