Child marriages are becoming more prevalent among members of the Apostolic sects. This often involves young girls joining polygamous unions, a research by Plan International, a child-centred community development organization, has revealed.

Tinotenda Hondo, organization’s gender advisor in Zimbabwe told RelZim.org  that Apostolic sect members from Johane Marange, Johane Masowe,  Johane Masowe WeChishanu and others use certain verses in the Bible to justify marrying more than one child girl.

 “Some of them even go to the extent of claiming to have been told by God in their dreams that certain young girls should become their wives, while others prophecy who they should get married to, ” she explained.

In Manicaland’s Honde Valley and Mutare areas, where there is the highest concentration of members of Vapostori in the country, the research found out that a religious festival is held during the month of June and many girls attend, missing out on school days.

On return from the festival, some school girls drop out of school to be married as many of the more conservative members of the Apostolic sects do not value education for girls beyond primary school: attaining basic numeracy and literacy skills.

The research, which was done in 10 districts throughout the country, also found out that due to strong emphasis on spiritual healing, girls and young women from the Apostolic sects tend to be deprived of sexual and reproductive health information and modern health services, exposing them to HIV, maternal death and birth complications among other things.

Zvidzai Chidhakwa, program support manager at the Zimbabwean office of Plan International, said the organization is currently in talks with leaders of the Union for Development of the Apostolic Churches (UDACIZA)  to encourage their members to end the practice of marrying child  girls. “We have convinced Apostolic sect leaders to embrace issues to do with health and sanitation. But when it comes to child marriages, this has become a tall order which they are not prepared to budge. We will however continue to engage them so that the practice ends.”

Plan International in Zimbabwe has enough evidence to conclude that Vapostori communities forfeit the economic potential of girls by forcing these children into early marriages and denying them access to education and other rights,.

The study was commissioned in August this year to assess the situation of girls in Zimbabwe as part of a global advocacy campaign “Because I Am a Girl” which is aimed at ensuring the plight of girls remains on the family, community, national and international agenda.

RelZim.org wrote on the topic earlier this year.