S. Africans urged to fight gender-based violence in guise of religion

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-23 02:11:26|Editor: yan
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CAPE TOWN, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini on Monday urged South Africans to fight gender-based violence in the guise of religion and faith.

"We condemn the acts of gender-based violence that occurred in the guise of religion and faith," Dlamini said at the trial of Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotoso and two co-accused in the Port Elizabeth High Court, Eastern Cape Province.

Dlamini, along with Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and Eastern Cape Premier Phumullo Masualle, attended the trial, indicating the high attention the government is attaching to the case.

"This is a turning point for everyone to ask themselves what they have done to protect women, especially the justice system," Dlamini said while addressing the public outside court.

Omotoso is charged with rape and human trafficking, while the two co-accused women are accused of recruiting girls from all over the country for purposes of sexual exploitation.

The trio are facing more than 60 charges that include racketeering and rape.

The 58-year-old televangelist allegedly trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were from various branches of his church to a house in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, where he allegedly sexually exploited them.

Omotoso was arrested on April 20 last year, by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks, at the Port Elizabeth Airport.

According to state prosecutors, some of the alleged victims are as young as 13 years old.

The pastor has been denied bail on two occasions, as he was deemed a flight risk. The co-accused were arrested in November last year and are out on bail.

The case has sparked public interest in South Africa, where there is a history of so-called holy men taking advantage of their congregations.

"Today we find adults who took children to places of worship who are accomplices since they also contributed to the grooming of these children as sex slaves," Dlamini said.

"We condemn the hijacking and use of our own buildings and sites for illegal religious practices," she said. "What is happening in these places of worship is human trafficking."

The minister said her department is also aware of the many cases of intimidation against women who have spoken up against Omotoso.

"We note with concern the social media comments going around. We wish to warn all those who intimidate these women that they are accomplices in the crime of abuse that Omotoso is accused of," she said.

The minister said her department will be embarking on a process of planning toward public hearings with various stakeholders against gender-based violence and all forms of abuses in the guise of religion and faith.

"These abuses can be in churches, in synagogues, in mosques, on mountains, under the sea and in heaven above," she said.

These hearings will offer women a platform to speak about their experiences, according to Dlamini.

"They will also shed the veil of shame that comes with being abused, and finally heal the pain they have been carrying alone," she said.

Concurrent to the hearings, the government will be reviewing the Sexual Offenses Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Criminal Procedures Act, with the view to strengthen the country's laws to protect women, Dlamini said.

She said her department will also be meeting with the Departments of Home Affairs and International Relations and Cooperation to deliberate on the theme of migration as it pertains not only to this case in particular, but also to the many unregulated religious institutions headed by foreign nationals.