Don’t abuse women and girls in the name of religion – FIDA on kissing Anglican Priest

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The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has asked religious bodies not to abuse women and girls all in the name of religion.

FIDA said for far too long, the issue of sexual harassment has been at best side-lined and at worst silenced in the church.

A statement reacting to the Anglican Priest who was caught kissing female studnets said “It is now time to challenge cultures of entitlement and abuse of power by clerics which plague women and girls in religious settings. The reality though is that sexual harassment and abuse by clerics has been in the news for quite a while due to undue influence, duress and fear of religious authority. Though religious authority is regarded highly in Ghana, it should not be used as a cloak to oppress and abuse women and girls who most often need the protection of these clerics.”

Social Media went berserk when the video hit the internet as social media users expressed different views on the matter. While others saw nothing wrong with it, others thought of it as being sacrilegious.

Others also described it as being unlawful. At the time, the details were still sketchy so some users who seem to have information volunteered it.

The Priest has been relieved of his duty.

The Leadership of the Anglican Church, Ghana had said in an earlier statement that it is saddened by the video circulating on social media in which one of their priests was seen kissing three female students of St. Monica’s College of Education during a church service.

“The Church is saddened by the news and wishes to state expressly that, thorough investigation has immediately been instituted into the matter and the action of the said Priest would be dealt with in accordance with the norms and values of the Anglican Communion where morality is extremely revered in the Church”, the church said in an August 17 statement.

It added that measures are being put in place to help the affected students get over the experience.

“…all efforts are being made to engage the students concerned through counselling sessions to avert any psychological issues that may arise at a result of the viral video”.

Below is FIDA’s full statement…

Since yesterday, the attention of the country has been drawn to the video published by some media houses and circulating on some social media platforms of an Anglican priest, Rev Father Balthazar Obeng Larbi, kissing girls during a church service in a school. Also circulating are screenshots of chats allegedly posted by students of the same school claiming the incident as the modus operandi of the said reverend father.

Quite disturbing to watch was the jeering and excitement on the faces of onlookers which in no doubt emboldened the perpetrator to continue kissing the girls. Sexual harassment and sexual abuse is not a laughing matter.

For far too long, the issue of sexual harassment has been at best side-lined and at worst silenced in the church. It is now time to challenge cultures of entitlement and abuse of power by clerics which plague women and girls in religious settings. The reality though is that sexual harassment and abuse by clerics has been in the news for quite a while due to undue influence, duress and fear of religious authority. Though religious authority is regarded highly in Ghana, it should not be used as a cloak to oppress and abuse women and girls who most often need the protection of these clerics.

Needless to say, sexual harassment is gender based violence and a violation of the human rights of girls and women and is prohibited in the 1992 Constitution, the Domestic Violence Act and the Labour Act. The Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) defines “sexual harassment as any unwelcome, offensive or importunate sexual advances or request made by an employer or superior officer or a co-worker, whether the worker is a man or woman. The effect of sexual harassment in the academic and professional lives of women has in most situations denied women of their rightful places of merit and contributed to the huge gender gaps in education and the workplace, thus the need for the Affirmative Action Law.

FIDA-Ghana applauds the Anglican Church of Ghana for taking this matter seriously by relieving Rev Father Larbi of his duties, providing counselling for the girls and investigating this unfortunate incident. It is now time for women and girls who have been sexually harassed in churches to come out with their experiences in order to raise awareness of these despicable acts. Being mindful of the possibility of being stigmatised for speaking out, FIDA Ghana would like to inform the public of its Gender Based Violence reporting phone number or whatsapp platform on 0554121205 and website on [email protected] These platforms provides

opportunity for victims of violence to report such acts whilst providing a trained lawyer to attend to their legal needs.

By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana