Victims challenge customary marriages involving 16-year-olds

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.

PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI
SENIOR REPORTER

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.

6 Comments

  1. I applaud this because it never made any sense that the age of consent for girls was at 16 while the age of majority was at 18. Who was benefiting in marrying or having sexual relationships with these young children? Of course it is always these old men. Please let both the age of consent and the age of majority be uniform at 18 in fact increase it to 21 so that young girls can grow up physically, emotionally and intellectually without any disturbances from peodophiles. This will go a long way in eradicating the feminisation of poverty in all its manifestations.

  2. 21 I agree

  3. Without addressing the root causes that make young girls enter into marriage or sexual relations @16 or even less it will never work.

    I know of places where 12 13 14 year olds have become wives. Talking to them they say they are happy because they escaped poverty hunger at their families.

    Some of them go on to curse those behind initiatives like this but offer no solutions to the causes that put the young girls in those situations. And from the look of things Zimbabwe is set to continue being a poverty hit nation for a long long time to come.

  4. I strongly agree with the idea of having the age even increased to 21. Girls who are married off at a young age often become slaves in that marriage union they are in chiefly because they will be uneducated and all they can now do in life is being a housewife. They would have escaped poverty at home only to fall into another horrible trap. They get abused left, right and center and they won’t have any escape strategy from the abuse because their life has become solely dependent on another individual so all they can do is to remain at the mess of that person. It’s sad.

  5. the only problem is that these seemingly enlightened girls are funded by some NGO and that is not mentioned in this article.
    It should have read as some NGO trying to eke a leaving has funded a project to change the laws governing marriages.
    statistics indicate that only about 20% of the marriages are registered and 60% are informal with about another 20% are just living arrangement/associations.
    genrally laws are derived from the behaviour of society.

  6. Until evrything is changed u cant do anything,let us seek God.

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