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Nzimande calls for banning religions that abuse women – isn’t that most of them?

Blade Nzimande has called for churches that abuse women to be shut down according to eNCA.

The transport minister, and leader of the communist party was speaking at the funeral of former Eastern Cape education MEC Mandla Makupula at the Christian Abbotsford Centre in East London.

“Christianity and the beliefs of our people must not be used to serve a perverse agenda. Violence against women is something that we should all face up to.”

The call comes after the testimony of Cheryl Zondi in the rape trial of pastor Timothy Omotoso, 60, and his co-accused, Lusanda Sulani‚ 36‚ and Zukiswa Sitho‚ 28.

According to Times LIVE, Zondi is currently subject to threatening phone calls.

“She was threatened that God will kill her because she goes against a man of God, and things along those lines. We realise that the support for the accused is very strong,” Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva, chair of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural‚ Religious and Linguistic Communities told Times LIVE.

Zondi has also, however, received mass support after she faced harsh cross examination by Omotoso’s lawyer, advocate Peter Daubermann.

According to News24, Daubermann’s questions included requiring her to express how deeply the pastor had penetrated her, and also why she didn’t scream while being raped.

According to another report in News24, Daubermann tried to intimate that she was a willing participant in her rape and molestation. The abuse started when she was 14.

This is not the only ongoing rape case against a pastor in South Africa, according to The Citizen Pastor Abednigo Mongo in Mpumalanga is currently out on R10,000 after allegedly raping a 15 year old.

According to The Sowetan another pastor, who was not named in order to protect the victim, was sentenced to life after raping his step-daughter in April.

My Take

The aptly named Daubermann was doing his job – as part of the pastor’s defense has to do his best to keep his client out of jail.

The problem here is not the lawyer, it is the system, rape victims often face secondary victimisation through the courts, as do victims of child abuse.

It is also unfortunately the case that when the abuser is someone who is a big name in the community – there will be those who rally to their defense by threatening anybody who dares speak out about it.

Religion adds a particularly nasty aspect to the problem. One of the cases I remember reading about was a pastor in America who raped a child on her father’s grave in Alabama.

She said her rapist, pastor Mack Charles Andrews of the United Pentecostal Church in Thomasville, told her that if she told anybody demons would come for her.

You would think that this is an argument for banning all religion, because all religions have cases like this.

Yahoo News reported from Uttar Pradesh about a cleric who raped a 14 year old in a mosque, the Anglican Church has its own abuse scandal along the same lines as the Catholic one, and the story of Asifa Bano‘s rape in a Hindu temple in India is downright horrifying.

The thing is it is not really the specific beliefs that breed this sort of behaviour – it is down to how authority works. Some people abuse whatever authority they are given, they see themselves gaining power as gaining more rights than their potential victims.

And where have we heard that before?

“We (the ANC) have more rights here because we are in a majority. You (opposition) have fewer rights because you are in a minority,” Jacob Zuma said in 2012 according to News24.

Should we ban political parties while we’re at it?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m an atheist, and I’m an antitheistic atheist. That means I see religion as generally harmful, part of that is that I see it as building these systems of authority that then lead to abuses.

However when you start banning religions, it seems to me like it produces similar systems of authority that are themselves abusive. You substitute one problem for another.

We should take these cases as evidence that religion is wrong. If there are any gods, they don’t seem interested enough to stop their representatives from raping kids, or at least speak out about it.

If I ran a school and one my teachers raped a child and I knew about it and kept quiet, I’d view myself as being at least somewhat culpable, yet God, who is supposed to be all knowing, remains silent.

The very least we would expect from a human actor to prevent future abuse is beyond the divine, indicating that the divine does not exist.

But this shouldn’t be grounds to ban religions, because in order to have people speak out about abuse they need the freedom to speak. That is what those who threatened Zondi wanted to take away from her, her freedom to speak.

That is what Saudi Arabia killed Jamal Khashoggi for, to silence his freedom to speak. That is what so many ANC politicians have been murdered over in KwaZulu Natal, their ability to speak about corruption.

You take away someone’s right to disagree, to believe things which you think are wrong, and you take away their ability to speak up about the wrongs being done.

We do not get better by doing things like banning religion, we get better by encouraging people to talk about it.

  • Picture courtesy of GCIS via Flickr.
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