MJC task team tackles GBV pandemic

Moulana Mobeen Alexander and Shaamiela Francis are counsellors who work on the MJC task team tackling gender violence.

A Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) task team has started a programme to talk about gender violence.

The programme involves conducting interviews for television network, ITV.

Chipo Hwacha, 27, a volunteer for Rape Crisis’s Speak Out, was among the interviewees.

She was 20 when she was sexually assaulted by someone she knew and trusted.

“I broke down at work and that is how I got help,” she said.

He was arrested, but the judicial system “did not make it easy” on her, Ms Hwacha said.

“We must get special courts for sexual violence. It is not easy having to testify in an open court. It made me question my self-esteem, but then I started on my Speak Out journey and made the decision to take back my power. Being a survivor of sexual abuse does not define you, although it is not something you can disengage with. I am blessed to have supportive people around me.”

Moulana Mobeen Alexander said being a counsellor at the MJC meant seeing first-hand the impact of gender violence on communities.

“From an Islamic and a citizen point, we have a communal responsibility to everyone. This is something real, and sweeping it under the carpet must no longer be tolerated. We do find men coming through the MJC’s doors who are survivors of abuse, and we all need to show more sensitivity around it when a man speaks up.”

People should speak out against gender violence at every opportunity – even during Friday sermons because it had taken on pandemic proportions in the country, Moulana Alexander said.

Another woman, who did not want to be named, told how she had escaped her abusive husband with the MJC’s support.

“I was in complete denial for a long time, because people could not see the wounds. I still had hope for our marriage and asked him to go for counselling with me at the MJC. He even displayed his abusive behaviour there and had to be removed from the premises. My pain is still very fresh. Even after he hurt me so many times, I still wanted to protect him. I want other women to know that they are not alone, even though it might feel like that at times. I felt like that too at one stage, because I did not want anyone to know. I take care of my octogenarian mother and everybody else, and to suddenly be the vulnerable one was a strange place for me. There is hope, and there is help, however,” the woman said.