S. Africans urged to fight gender-based violence in guise of religion
Cape Town : South Africans have been urged to fight gender-based violence in the guise of religion and faith.
Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini made the appeal on Monday, reports Xinhua news agency.
"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 was 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 three 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. According to prosecutors, some of the alleged victims were as young as 13 years old.
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...
"These abuses can be in churches, in synagogues, in mosques, on mountains, under the sea and in heaven above," she said.