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The global perspective on women’s rights




THE United Nations (UN) was formed in 1948 and states were obliged by the UN to abide by the precepts of the convention.

The UN mandated states to enforce and promote human rights. The UN created various international sector-specific legal instruments on women and children to ensure that they enjoy same rights and benefits at law.

These international instruments are subject of review because the constitution of Zimbabwe recognises them in its interpretation of the law.

The purpose of reviewing this literature resonates with the assumptions of this study that some African independent churches’ (AIC) theologies violate the human rights component and they must be repelled. The purpose of repelling is to ensure that there is harmony between the law and theology.

This research noted with concern that, while there is a need to ensure that there is harmony between theology and the constitutional provisions, the UN Articles 18 and 19 and section 60 of the constitution protect the church.

These sections of the law do not compel the church to abide by secular laws, which is a major gap noted by this research. Without the essential laws to protect women and children’s rights even within ecclesiastical circles, their rights become subjective. Thus, each church chooses the quantum of rights that it can accord to women and children with impunity.

This study noted that section 60 of the constitution of Zimbabwe and Articles 18 and 19 of the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), which was adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, explicitly protect freedom of thought, conscience, religion, opinion and expression.

The evidence obtained in literature points to a more nuanced thinking where the UNHRC is in fact condemning states for limiting religious freedoms. Limiting religious freedoms is being considered a violation of human rights.

Perhaps this helps to explain why churches are enjoying theological immunities, with states failing to control or censor some of their theologies.

The 2013 reports by both Human Rights Without Frontiers International and the UNHRC, listed eight countries which restricted religious freedoms as violating fundamental religious freedom regardless of whether the concerns raised against the identified states were valid or invalid.

In accordance with the report findings, China arrested Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims and the Falun Gong on the basis of their doctrines and teachings. In Morocco, a converted Christian was arrested for sharing his Christian faith to a Muslim.

In Saudi Arabia, 52 Ethiopians were arrested for conducting a private religious service and, in India, protestants were arrested for private prayers.

In Indonesia, a clergyman was arrested for working without a valid permit, in Kazakhstan an atheist was arrested for inciting religious hatred in his writings. In Libya, foreign missionaries were arrested for proselytising and, in South Korea, nearly 600 Jehovah’s Witness members were arrested for resisting mandatory military service. The reviewed literature helps the study to clearly understand that the UN system makes it very difficult for states to limit the powers of the church.

In line with section 86 of the constitution, a right is limited by laws of general application through a recognised legal body, thus the Parliament or any other constitutional legal body.

However, there are conditionalities when one limits a constitutional provision: the intent should be fair, reasonable and justifiable in a democracy based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom in accordance with section 86 sub-section (2) of the constitution. 

Legally, the structure of a typical constitutional rights provision is that it begins with a sub-section enunciating the nature and the content of the right. In addition, a sub-section may or may not have an internal modifier, that is a language built into the statement of the right which limits or restricts the parameters of the right.

Internal modifiers are critical in that they set clear boundaries of what is permitted and what is not allowed and section 60 of the constitution is one such typical example where laws on the fundamental freedoms governing churches do not have internal modifiers, meaning that churches’ theologies are formulated depending on what each and every ecclesia would wish to.

About the writer: Matthew Mare is a Zimbabwean academic who holds two bachelor’s degrees, five master’s qualifications and a PhD. He is also doing another PhD and has 12 executive certificates in different fields. Professionally, he is a civil servant and also board member at the National Aids Council of Zimbabwe.

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