A CONSTITUTIONAL test case in which two victims of child marriages filed a lawsuit challenging government to outlaw marriages involving 16-year-olds will be heard in the Constitutional Court this Wednesday.
The ground–breaking application by Loveness Mudzuru (19) and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi (18) – which was filed in November last year – seeks to ensure the protection of children’s rights by challenging the Customary Marriages Act which allows 16-year-old girls to get married.
In the application, the two are seeking an order barring children from entering into unregistered customary law unions before reaching the age of 18.
Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community and the Attorney General’s Office were cited as the respondents.
The pair wants the Constitutional Court to declare that under the Constitution no one could contract a marriage before reaching 18 years.
They want Section 18 of the Marriage Act, which allows marriage before 18, to be declared unconstitutional together with the Customary Marriages Act, which they claimed was unconstitutional to the extent that it did not provide for a minimum age of 18 for customary marriages.
According to the legal think tank that provides information on the work of Parliament and the country’s laws, child marriage was recognised as a social evil in most countries of the world.
“It largely occurs because of ignorance and poverty: poor and uneducated parents, unable to support all their children, often marry off their daughters as soon as possible in order to relieve themselves of the burden of keeping them. In countries where dowries or bride-prices are payable, parents have an added incentive to secure husbands for their daughters at an early age,” Veritassaid in its latest bulletin.
Veritas said young girls often suffered physical injury from marriage and chances of those marriages breaking down were very high.
It noted that such girls were often married off to older men and the marriages had harmful social effects.
“Once married, the girl child is unlikely to proceed further with her education, so she remains impoverished both intellectually and economically,” the think tank said.
International treaties and conventions such as the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa recognise the evils of child marriage. Zimbabwe is a party to both conventions.