GENDER FOCUS with EMELDA MWITWA
CLAIMS of ‘sexual abuse’ of women in the Church by clergymen are not new. Oftentimes, stories are told about how some men of God, who, instead of promoting morality in society, have a tendency of sleeping around with women and girls in the Church.
And in a number of instances, these allegations are not mere cases of sour grapes.
Most of you probably have seen how female disciples are sometimes touched inappropriately during prayer meetings in church by the ‘men of God’. In other occasions, we have heard of prayer meetings and counselling sessions held in solitary places between pastors and their female followers being concluded in bed.
Well, I do not know why the blame seems to fall squarely on the disgraced ministers of the gospel when some of the women they go out with seem to enjoy the clandestine sexual exploits while they last.
Perhaps it’s due to the unequal power relations between the papas, who stand on a strong platform of authority as church leaders and the women, who as disciples, stand on a lower altitude of power.
It is believed that some pastors, famously known as papas in some churches, go about their predatory sexual activities in the Church because of the gullibility of women generally.
Whatever the papa says goes for most women because he is seen as a holy servant of God even when his word of command comes out clearly as a transgression of what is written in the Holy Scriptures.
When he says you need to deposit your terminal benefits in my bank account so that I could bless them, many a times, foolish women will do so because it is papa’s word.
They will, however, cry foul when he squanders the money. But still, other women will not learn from the mistakes of their colleagues.
When papa’s hand begins to stray and touch body parts he shouldn’t, some women would play along to his dirty tricks but only to cry foul later.
This is exactly what came out on social media recently when some women lost their cool and started alleging that their pastor had a tendency of sexually abusing women in the church. I am not sure if the allegations are true because the man in question rebutted the claims.
However, other Zambians who felt like they knew something about the alleged sexual scandal in the church in question came out to sympathise with the ‘victims’ and castigate the clergyman.
The pastor was hauled over the coals for allegedly taking advantage of easy-to-foul women in church and abusing them sexually.
Some sympathisers reacted so angrily that they made earth moving allegations, prompting the man in question to respond.
“I would like to make it abundantly clear that I am available to be investigated for these alleged serious crimes and I shall avail myself and fully cooperate if I am called upon to do so,” he said.
What is my concern over this issue?
Well, my concern on this matter is not just limited to the ministry in question, but rather I would like to cast my concerns over the Church in general.
My first area of interest is the alleged sexual abuse of women in the Church in Zambia.
Second, failure by the Church to act against predatory sexual behaviour of pastors when church members complain.
In my view, most of the women who play the victim in sexual scandals in the Church are not innocent per se. While the problem of clergymen having unholy unions with women in the Church is a real one, some of our women go into these relationships with open eyes.
Except in cases where victims of randy pastors are girl children, some women actually take pleasure in having affairs with clergymen and seem to enjoy all the sugar-coated opportunities and ‘blessings’ that come with such relationships.
While the affairs last, they will not see it as sexual abuse by the clergymen until later when they break up. That, in my view, is not sexual abuse but rather mere retribution by a jilted lover against their ex-lover due to sour grapes.
Such reactions are common from women because sometimes dishonest pastors tend to have a chain of girlfriends, and so in many instances are bound to use and dump their ‘victims’ when they are done with them.
Sometimes, treacherous pastors double-cross women, causing rivalry and fights among the faithful in the Church.
I know that there are certain exceptions where women are genuinely sexually molested by pastors through unholy touches, forced sex and unwelcome sexually suggestive gestures or comments.
Forced sex or rape as we know it, could arise in cases where a woman allows herself to go for counselling or prayers in solitary places with a pastor. It’s possible to be overpowered or cry and not get help in those places.
Unsuspecting young girls are common victims of forced sex in Church. Due to their naivety, girl children may not see the danger signs when the red lights begin flickering.
My point is, sex scandals in the Church involving church leaders and female disciples are real. But there are situations where the womenfolk enjoy the ungodly affairs and other instances where they are genuinely harassed or abused sexually.
This is why I think the Church should not turn a deaf ear to complaints of sexual harassment of women and sexual abuse thereof. When members raise objections about the moral standing of certain leaders, the suspects should be investigated and dealt with if found guilty. There should be no sacred cows, no matter the position of transgressors in the Church.
Failure by the Church to deal with these cases decisively is what has given leeway to some church leaders to go about harassing women with impunity.
Regardless of positions that people hold in the church, everyone is just a member after all, and can be dismembered if they misbehave.
Perhaps, if help is not forthcoming within the confines of the Church, victims of sexual abuse should find a way of seeking justice outside the church.
For example, the victims could report cases to the police or alert the media anonymously. There is no need for victims of sexual harassment/ abuse to suffer quietly when help is just a phone call away to the relevant authorities.
Remember, if you opt to sweep the dirt under the carpet, you are allowing the abusers to go about molesting other girls and women without restraint. You can break the circle of sexual abuse in your sphere by simply breaking your silence.