The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
TRADITIONAL leaders in the country have called for zero tolerance to child and women abuse particularly early child marriages and genital mutilation.
The traditional leaders, under the auspices of the Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe are part of the continental Council of Traditional Leaders in Africa (CTLA) whose mandate is to deal with early child marriages and female genital mutilation. CTLA had its first continental orientation meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia between 27 October and 1 November to share experiences and deliberate on how to implement the initiative in respective countries. The programme is in partnership with United Nations Women to make sure traditional elders are included in gender issues.
In an interview in Victoria Falls on his return from the meeting, Chief Siansali of Binga, who represents Matabeleland North chiefs in the Chiefs Council said traditional leaders had taken the initiative to disregard some cultural practices that militate against women rights.
“The council has been making efforts for two years and now it’s taking shape. Our entry point is the president of the Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira who may here and there assign somebody to go and represent him at CTLA, “ said Chief Siansali.
He said as traditional leaders they were trying to come together to deal with early child marriages and female genital mutilation.
“We are trying to fight outdated cultural practices considering that traditional culture is not static. We are custodians of culture but some cultures are not meant for the good of the people.
“This includes genital mutilation which seeks to deprive women of sexual pleasure. That’s a barbaric practice hence we need a culture that builds a person to be great in life. The key issue is early child marriage hence we want to amplify the voice of women giving them equal opportunities in school and in the economy,” said Chief Siansali.
Genital mutilation is the act of cutting or pulling a female’s organ and is mostly culturally believed to enhance sexual pleasure to the male counterpart. Chief Siansali said this is in violation of women’s rights.
“We are not trying to disregard our culture but there are certain elements that need to be plugged off.”
The chief said some delinquents were hiding behind culture to commit gender crimes. He said cases of child abuse, early child marriages sometimes perpetuated by parents who pledge their children for marriage were worrying.
“Some abusers hide behind culture and tradition to commit rape and forced marriage. Some people are hiding behind the banner of culture yet no culture allows children to be married off before their time. We should not hide behind poverty to commit crime. We have no doubt this is a good idea because as a country we have high cases of early child and forced marriages and rape and this is what we will be fighting.
“Sometimes traditional leaders are targeted by activists for advocacy purposes. Our plea is that we should work together to fight these vices and abuse.
“We need to encourage people to bring to light all cases of rape and child abuse so we have proper statistics. People should feel free to report to chiefs, police and other stakeholders,” said Chief Siansali.
He called for the arrest of parents who force their children into marriage. Chief Siansali said the country was on the right track in the fight against gender abuse as the Constitution outlawed some practices that had gone for years unchecked. —@ncubeleon