Cooking, cleaning and making babies: Inside the ultra-conservative Christian cult Gloriavale where women's lives are strictly controlled and they have no contact with the outside world

Daily Mail, UK/August 6, 2016

By Ashleigh Davis

A documentary has revealed what life is like for women inside a controversial Christian community in New Zealand, whose members are completely segregated from the outside world.

Gloriavale: A Woman's Place is about a woman's role in the community of about 500 who live near Haupiri, on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island.

The documentary, which aired on television in New Zealand in July, looks at Gloriavale's openly submissive female community members and their day-to-day roles, reported the NZ Herald.

It's the latest in a series of films made about isolated community by director and producer Amanda Evans and filmed by her husband Ivars Berzins.

It examines life inside the male-dominated society, where women are given kitchen and laundry duties while men do more physical work like building or working in factories.

Community members have barely any contact with the outside world, their access to media and the internet is restricted, they are only allowed to eat and wear certain things, marriages are arranged by community leaders and if people decide to leave they are ex-communicated. 

The documentary focuses on a few women in particular - 22-year-old Dove Love who is a kitchen manager and preparing for her upcoming marriage to 17-year-old builder Watchful Steadfast.

Dove Love is doing the washing for everybody in the community, when Watchful Steadfast arrives her her house with a bunch of flowers as a marriage proposal.

She admits she didn't know she was getting married until hours beforehand.

Once the couple is married and they exchange vows - where the woman promises to submit to the man and the man vows to be a leader, they embrace before being carried to a consummation room where they are expected to lose their virginities.

The documentary also looks at another woman, Angel Benjamin, who is pregnant with her sixth child and believes women were put on earth to bear children.

Director Amanda Evans told the NZ Herald she feels inner turmoil every time she visits the community.

'Sometimes I think, 'That's so cool. Isn't that lovely? Ten minutes later, I think, 'Oh, I could never live like that.'

She said she has wrestled with the turmoil, but believes if the tables were turned, Gloriavale's residents would feel the same conflict if they were to document her life.

'If they came and stayed at our house they'd feel some things were cool, and others [would make them think] we were terrible sinful heathens with no moral compass at all,' Ms Evans said.

'It's easy to make judgments. I will feel like I've done a good job if, whatever opinions you bring to the documentary when you see it, there will be moments when you feel conflicted.'

Members of the community are reportedly happy about having no contact with the outside world, and are said to be disgusted and disdained about how society lives.

The community's Leader Neville Cooper set up Springbank Christian Community in 1965 but after the group increased in size, he bought a new property in 1991 and renamed the community Gloriavale, reported Perth Now.

The controversy surrounding the community isn't new, after Mr Cooper, who changed his name to Hopeful Christian, was jailed on sexual abuse charges in 1995.

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