Ashamed to be a women’s rights activist whilst girls are being sexually abused

By Linda Masarira

6 August 2021

I have been hurting the past fortnight about the Memory Machaya experience and subsequent death. As a mother and a woman, when I read about how she died I got shivers down my spine and could feel the pain of what she went through.

I have a 12 year old daughter and I would try to picture her being married and pregnant and my conscience screamed NO and pushed me to do something.

After doing research about the livelihoods of women and the girl child in the Marange Sect, I had three consecutive sleepless nights self introspecting on whether or not I have done enough as a women’s rights defender and girl child rights advocate. This morning, I realized that I haven’t done enough as long as 12-17 year olds are still being married off before the legal age of consent to get married in Zimbabwe which is 18.

I am ashamed that girls are subjected to sexual abuse and sexploitation in the name of religion and child marriage. I am disgusted that I am one of those women who tireslessly claim to be fighting for the girl child whilst they are being denied access to education and subjected to servitude and living conditions which are as good as servitude.

This morning I made a bold decision to fight for the girl child in Bocha Marange and every other girl child who is being sexploited, abused and manipulated. This is fight I am going to fight and win. Earlier today I was talking to one survivor who was nearly married off at 13 and below is what she said about how girls are chosen as brides in the Marange sect.

“1. So during the Pasika, the Priest chooses a wife or wives. Young girls will go to the priest’s house, help with the cleaning and washing. He will choose a wife. Ages 11 to 15 years old most times(Once went there with my cousin, we were around that age)

  1. Dhepa / Virginity testing
    We would go for virginity testing during Pasika with the old women. Somewhere near the river. Escorted by the prophet. We would lie down and they check our private parts. All girls from 9 years old.
    Virgins will be given a full leaf
    Non virgins a broken leaf.
    We would go back to the church grounds, sit , crowd gathered where people would be celebrating the virgins and mock the non virgins. The former would mostly get a man as 2nd or 3rd or 8th wife. Not 1st because she is nolonger a virgin

Virgins too would be chosen by anyone who wants.

It would be the joy of the parents kuti mwana akatiziswa kupasika

There is no lobola, madhara vanongomwa tea vese vowirirana zvavharana

In some cases parents wont even be aware mwana anongotiziswa vasingazivi, tricked like in my case dhara rakanyepera baba wangu, got address and wanted to just take me , make me a wife and my parents would know ndatova nenhumbu.

So there are cases like that. Problem kuti because its church and its allowed, parents will just accept and move on.

Because of this setup, many Mapositori are poor. There wld be 5 wives, 20 kids they cant afford, so they marry off the girls.”

Imagine this is happening under our watch yet we purport to be advocates of women’s rights. There is no religion that is above the law. It is time tht every other woman who purports to be a woman’s rights defender starts to show her real teeth and start biting. The girl child has been abused enough and enough is enough.

  • We will not be silent whilst a girl child’s self determination is denied by a religious system which is oppressive and manipulative.
  • We will not be silent when law enforcers are turning a blind eye to the thousands of cases of child abuse in Marange.
  • We will not be silent when women are subjected to unbearable pain during labour on the name of religion.
  • We will not be silent when government pretends not to know the realities on the ground in Marange.
  • We will not be silent until the girl child is respected, given equal opportunity to education and lives as an equal person to the boys of this land.

I demand justice for Memory Machaya’s death and every other girl in Marange who is underage, married and pregnant.

I call upon all the mother’s in Zimbabwe to stand with this worthy cause in our quest to protect the girl child. Tomorrow I will highlight my recommendations to all various stakeholders.

Lastly we need an honest dialogue as women with the President of this country pertaining to the issue of protection of the girl child.

United we stand Divided we fall.

Linda Tsungirirai Masarira
LEAD President

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