No holy ground for sex crimes

01 February 2018 - 14:25
By Reader Letter
Image: 123RF Stock Image/ lculig

The reports this week about sexual indiscretion involving teachers and church leaders are unfortunate.

This is surely an understatement given horrific imagery accompanying these cases.

The level of sex crimes in South Africa is very high as police records and reports by NGOs with an interest in the welfare of children and women show.

Since these crimes do not show any sign of decline, it is discouraging to encounter stories of indecency involving teachers and religious leaders.

The allegations of sexual harassment at a Methodist church in Tshwane, though not yet verified, cannot be ignored after the daring protest by young women inside the church building.

The fight against sexual abuse should not have holy or forbidden grounds, and the brave act by the female protesters involved should be applauded.

Whether culprits existed in the Tshwane church or not, should have been a secondary issue. The urgent matter for the congregants should have been to embrace and not castigate their own children.

They could not have deliberately invited dishonour towards themselves by making wild claims about sexual harassment.

Caring worshippers should have been sensitive to the fact that a precedent of sex crimes involving the clergy, elders or other male members of churches has already been established. One example is that involving Nigerian pastor Tim Omotoso, who is in court for sex crimes allegedly committed against young female congregants.

Churches and schools should provide a safe haven for girls and women, against a brutal society. When children and women are harmed in these places of supposed safety, it is like a crime has been committed on top of another - betrayal of trust over commission of sexual infraction.

It's not enough to condemn sexual violation; we need to keep the narrative alive in all spheres of community life so that offenders have no place to hide.

Law enforcement must also play ball and those officers who dismiss people who try to open cases of harassment must be dealt with.

The biggest step towards triumph over this scourge, however, would be parents empowering their children through open talk about sex and sexuality.