Let’s amplify our voice against child marriage

September 07 15:04 2021

In 2016 the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe ruled that child marriages are unconstitutional. In the Constitutional Court’s ruling it focused primarily on the infringement of fundamental human rights created by child marriages. In this regard section 81(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 20 Act 2013 states that a child’s best interests are paramount in every matter concerning the child and Section 81(e) protects every child from economic and sexual exploitation and any form of abuse.

At present Zimbabwe qualifies to be one of the countries in Africa with the widespread presence of child marriages. According to the United Nations approximately one in every three girls is married off before the minimum age requirement, which is eighteen (18) years for any type of marriage in Zimbabwe according to the recently proposed Marriages Bill. Furthermore the “Marriages Bill” is expected to embargo on child marriages however it has not yet been enforced. One of the fundamental and preconditions of entering into a marriage in Zimbabwe is that there should be consent without any undue influence and manipulation. Nevertheless, perpetrators of child marriages take advantage of religious beliefs, gaps in the law, extreme poverty, failing to access education and certain social norms that incite marriages. It is the duty of the Zimbabwean government to protect the girl child by creating policies that target behavioral change in those tasked with the rights and responsibilities of female children

In Zimbabwe a lot of the girls affected by child marriages do so unwillingly and are coerced to enter into the marriages by their parents or relatives. Child marriages are considered as money-making schemes falling on the basis of “lobola” that is the traditional payment of dowry for the girl one wishes to marry as it is tradition. A parent would rather “sell” their daughter in exchange for some money paid as lobola for survival especially in the dire financial constraints affecting the country. More so parents who engage in such a practice believe that the money acquired can be used to educate a son in the family instead.  A girl child who is married off early  is deprived of basic fundamental rights such as, the ability to choose whom they want to get married to (autonomy),equality, fulfilling their dreams and ambitions , education and fundamental rights such as reproductive rights to health that if not dealt with properly , it will negatively affect the Zimbabwean society.

The UN together with other developmental Organizations are looking to end child marriages and advocating for positive parenting and implementation of positive social norms. It is the responsibility of the Zimbabwean government (has a duty) to engage these developmental Organizations and work together in advocating against child marriages, more so to create policies that will protect the girl child and put emphasis on a behavioral change.  A policy framework is needed to secure the urgency of the matter by ensuring enforcement and legal ground implementation. The Constitution of Zimbabwe protects the right of the child however it must expressly disregard the behaviour of child marriages.

This editorial was first published by  by ChimwaMurombe Legal Practice.

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