'Churches must help stem gender-based violence'

HARARE - The National Aids Council of Zimbabwe yesterday urged church leaders to embark on massive campaign against all forms of gender-based violence (GBV) that is fuelling HIV and Aids.

In an address to churches leaders, Madenyika Magwenjere, the provincial Aids action council chairperson, said church leaders must advocate for zero tolerance to gender-based violence.

“It is crucial that the church plays its part in addressing gender inequality which fuels HIV and Aids epidemic in women and girls,” Magwenjere said.

“Some examples of gender-based violence include rape and harmful cultural practices affecting women and girls, hence the need to mainstream gender in all our activities, the church included.

“The church has become pivotal on social development and other policy formulation forums by both public and private sector; hence the church is one of the key stakeholders in the battlefront in appreciation of its unique role in the response to HIV and Aids.”

Archbishop Johannes Ndanga, the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe executive president, concurred that congregants have the responsibility to fight against all forms of gender-based violence and eliminating problems associated with gender stereotyping.

“As churches, we applaud this notion and we want to join arms in addressing the disparities between men and women in the prevention of HIV and Aids, access to treatment, care and support and mitigation programmes,” Ndanga said.

“This has affected churches since they accommodate victims of gender-based violence; hence we agree that churches should come up with sustainable and meaningful interventions to counter this socially reprehensible phenomenon.

“While boys and girls in the church can be victims or survivors of some form of gender-based violence around the world, this phenomenon has a greater impact on women and girls and as such we need zero tolerance to such practices.”

Thecla Madziwa, Harare provincial metropolitan head in the ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, said different stakeholders should advocate for zero tolerance to gender-based violence saying it affects many spouses; hence churches have the role in combating the stigma.

Zimbabwe has recorded a high rate of gender based-violence which is caused by different factors ranging from religious, economic, political and cultural factors.

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