By A Correspondent- Police in Manicaland province have reportedly arrested several members of the Johane Marange Apostolic sect in connection with a teenage mother who died while giving birth at the sect’s shrine in Bocha.
This was revealed yesterday by Women’s Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni during virtual commemorations of the World Population Day.
Nyoni, however, did not disclose more details.
“My ministry has been alerted of a disturbing report of a 14-year-old girl who died while giving birth at a shrine in Bocha, Marange, which is making rounds on social media. I would like to inform the nation that we are working with the relevant stakeholders,” Nyoni said.
“I am reliably informed that the culprits have been arrested. And the law is taking its course. The case of the Marange teenager reminds us all that child marriage is still rife in our communities.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they were yet to release more information on the progress of the investigations into the case.
It is alleged that the now-deceased Memory Machaya was denied medical assistance by leaders of the apostolic sect, who kept her at the shrine until she died due to pregnancy complications.
The incident reportedly occurred on July 15, 2021.
Nyoni also said the COVID-19 pandemic had made it difficult for women to access healthcare services.
She said the pandemic had further widened inequalities between men and women, and increased gender-based violence cases.
Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said government was working on improving access to health services for women amid the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners yesterday launched a report which showed that half of women in 57 developing countries were denied bodily autonomy or lacked the power to make decisions over their bodies.
The report titled My Body is My Own shows that many women and girls are denied the right to decide to use contraception and to seek healthcare, among many other issues.
“World Population Day is very important for UNFPA — it is a flagship day meant to raise awareness of population dynamics centred on the sexual and reproductive health needs and vulnerabilities of women and girls,” UNFPA country representative Esther Muia said.
“It’s also an opportunity to showcase progress or challenges towards the realisation of universal access to sexual and reproductive health for women and young people even in humanitarian and emergency situations. It is, therefore, befitting that we launch the 2021 SWOP report as we commemorate World Population Day.”