By SIFISO DLAMINI | 2020-11-20
DEPUTY Prime Minister Themba Masuku has implored the church to do more in addressing social ills such as teenage pregnancy as 261 teenage girls fell pregnant during the partial lockdown.
The church organisations have been identified as one of the key organisations that are required to unify and address social ills such as gender based violence and teenage and unwanted pregnancies which have been on the rise during the on-going pandemic.
This was highlighted by Masuku who was a guest of honour during Council of Swaziland Churches (CSC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) which was doubled with the council’s 44 anniversary held at the St Paul’s Methodist Cathedral in Manzini yesterday.
He said in response to the pandemic, government activated the national contingency plan for a comprehensive response to the pandemic.
At the same time, regulations were put in place to give effect to measures taken by government to curb the spread of the coronavirus within the country.
“One of the elements of the regulations was a ‘lockdown’ system to restrict movement of people to limit the spread of the virus,” he said.
He mentioned that while the lockdown was generally good, it had some adverse consequences on gender based violence.
In this regard there has been an increase in the number of GBV cases and sexual violence since the lockdown. He said this has resulted in a number of girls falling pregnant at a time when his office had just started the campaign to end unintended pregnancies.
He stated that GBV and teenage pregnancies were of great concern to the government of this country and to his office in particular.
“I believe that these issues are also of great concern to the church and to God when the most vulnerable people are abused and violated in our society,” said Masuku.
He further shared some chilling statistics regarding teenage pregnancy in schools during the course of the COVID-19 lockdown as the schools were closed.
Out of 400 schools surveyed, 280 schools were found to have cases of teenage pregnancy. In this survey a total of 261 girls were found to be pregnant.
Out of the 261 girls, 44 were in Primary School while 217 were in Secondary and High School, he said.
He added that the highest numbers of the pregnancies were found in the Manzini Region and the lowest were in the Lubombo Region. He noted with horror that gender based violence and sexual abuse were a fundamental human rights violation.
Children, women, persons with disability and men were abused in different forms. Abuse is a terrible experience that leaves the victims with wounds which may never heal. Some of the victims of abuse endure sleepless nights, some live a life of perpetually blaming themselves and some because of abuse, abandon their career paths. These effects are incurable.
He cited the story of Tamar in the Bible (2 Samuel 13:19) who felt so hurt that she did something that she would not have done had Amnon not raped her.
“We are told that after the rape Tamar tore the ornamented robe worn by virgin daughters of the king, which she was wearing, she put ashes on her head, she put her hands on her head and went away weeping aloud as she was hurt and in absolute shame and disgust. The consequences of this violation were not only horrible towards the victim but the entire family was divided, filled with anger, bitterness and a quest for revenge,” he said. He emphasised the reality that violations occur under people’s watch in many households, churches, work places and in many social circles, formal and informal. He assured that as christians, this social ill could be fought together. He said it was common knowledge that the majority of Emaswati follow the christian faith and large numbers of the population attend church.
This placed the societal problems right the churches’ door steps allowing a close combat, but it also provided the church the opportunity to provide the solution.
He stated that in dealing with the GBV and the sexual abuse scourge, there was a need as a church to ask fundamental questions such as, where this abusive behaviour was coming from? What generated it and has enough been done to stop it at source? Moreover, was the church playing its roles effectively as a church, or perhaps not, sufficiently.
He said the church has a huge role to play towards correcting such societal ills. “You are teaching your congregations to have the heart of Jesus. This is a monumental task that you must take as your primary responsibility. Second, His Majesty’s government has added national laws as weapons to fight the wayward behaviour in our country,” said the DPM.
He urged the church to understand the SODV Act and appropriately preach their congregations starting from Sunday school.
“Arm yourselves with this piece of legislation which is now written in Siswati and in braille to cater for the visually impaired. Let us truly provide positive role modelling in the church, home and our communities. Let the young aspire to be like their local pastor, and or the church member,” implored Masuku.
He said there was a need to make the boys admire the good life of a pastor. The boys are the most culprits to be helped and there was a need to turn the focus on them. Many of them have no father figure in their lives and meaning there is a need for the church leaders to step in and become the missing father figure.
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