In my feminist lifespan (both as a self-naming feminist and also as a young girl who knew instinctively that girls didn’t have to wear skirts), I have often struggled with how to speak about female genital mutilation and/or female circumcision. I find myself hampered by the limitations of language in prescribing a framework from which to understand these practices. For each linguistic construction predicates a path within which to think about, talk about and create understandings and meanings for these practices.

Caritas Zambia is a Catholic Organization under the auspices of the Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC). The organization’s mandate is to foster and uphold human dignity through promotion of integrated human development. The organization works to empower people to challenge and act to overcome unjust situations in national governance.  

Evangelical churches are blooming in Angola, a traditionally devout Catholic nation, as its impoverished people turn to the promises of proselytising Protestantism. In a country of about 19 million people, Pope Benedict XVI drew a crowd of one million faithful when he visited in 2009 – and three in five Angolans continue to belong to the faith.

But a few years later, the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Earth claims at least 800,000 followers. Similarly, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, commonly known as IURD, counts 400,000 members.

Recently in Harare, we gave a lift to a couple from our church and after several minutes of healthy discussion on political issues in the country, the couple suddenly went quiet. Later on, we (the authors) realised that they had just discovered a box of ‘public sector’ – commonly known as free Panther condoms – placed at the back of the seat. The condoms were there because it is company policy for Brian to move around with condoms in the car for distribution to communities. But they had no idea about that.

Leah (not her real name)’s parents were born in Malawi and emigrated to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in search of greener pastures in the early 1970s. They got married in Zimbabwe through an arranged marriage union. Her father was 15 years older than her mother and had left a family back in Mangochi in Malawi. He started his new family in Zimbabwe and as he was a practicing Muslim, Leah became Muslim by default. During the early years of her life, Leah could not distinguish between religion and culture as the two are often intertwined.

Last October, I sat in the medieval gilt-and-velvet chamber of the House of Lords listening to an historic first-ever debate on LGBT issues in the British parliament.

Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) was founded in 1995 in Cape Town, South Africa. For the past 15 years, IAM has been the only organisation in southern Africa that specifically targets religious leaders in mainline Christian faith communities to sensitise these leaders to LGBTI issues. IAM works as a catalyst to lobby and encourage faith communities to re-examine their beliefs and attitudes towards homosexuality.

Inclusive Affirmative Ministries (IAM) has developed a network of supportive clergy from southern Africa and plans to continue to grow this network over the coming year. This network can be mobilised to support LGBTI rights and is committed to building acceptance of LGBTI people within their communities. During 2010 and 2011, much progress was made to build this type of network in each of the target countries (Malawi, Lesotho, Namibia and Kenya).

In the last few years, the public discourse surrounding sex and sexuality in Zimbabwe has been dominated by morality, religion and culture rather than, as one might expect, issues of HIV and AIDS or public health. Although there has been some very recent and limited exploration of sexual rights in the media, the main areas of concern have been alternative sexuality destroying the ‘moral fibre’ of Zimbabwean society.

It is Judgment Night in Harare. I have just had dinner with friends who are both bemused and amused that I plan to spend an entire evening with the popular Pentecostal pastor, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa. My friend JP tells me a joke that he says will get me in the spirit.

‘So Satan leaps out at a little old woman who is hard of hearing.

‘I am Satan,’ he says.

‘I do not hear you my son,’ she says.

 ‘I said I am Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub!’

‘I am sorry my son. I am afraid my ears are no longer what they were,’ she says.

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