By Thandiwe Garusa
LOCAL Christian denominations Thursday launched their Speak-Out Campaign in attempts to break the silence that surrounds the scourge of violence against women and girls.
The latest Zimbabwe Health Demographic Survey says that more than 1 in 3 (35%) married women aged 15-49 experience spousal violence committed by their husbands or partners.
According to the study, one in three Zimbabwean girls is married off before she turns 18, often to older men.
The underlying causes are many, and they range from poverty to patriarchy.
Authorities say, “none of these negate the fact that these are shocking statistics and will remain shocking until we start to act”.
Responding to journalists during the launch in Harare, Reverend Kenneth Mtata, who is secretary general of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, said the clergy was keen on ending sexual and gender-based violence.
“We are trying to first raise awareness within churches and community about the increasing rate of gender-based violence.
“People must know their rights especially women and girls and also to find ways on how we can assist those victims. Where do they go if they are being abused?
“We want to make sure that in churches, these issues must be addressed and people must speak out.
“Most abused in the society are women but men are also abused and we encourage them to speak out,” he said.
A statement released on Thursday by Zimbabwe Heads of Churches added; “This is not just a national campaign or a one-off event.
“Throughout the year and into next year, in faith communities at grassroots level, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, commits to put this campaign into sustained action through awareness raising, through Bible studies that re-examine the role of faith as it relates to human dignity and equality.”