ConCourt bans child marriages

THE Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has, with immediate effect, outlawed child marriages and struck off the statutes in Section 22(1) of the Marriage Act, which, for decades, had allowed children under the age of 18 years to formally get married.


The ConCourt yesterday ruled that Section 22(1) of the Marriage Act was inconsistent with Section 78(1) of the new Constitution, which sets 18 years as the minimum age of marriage in Zimbabwe and, as such, should be outlawed.

The ruling was triggered by an application filed by two Harare women, Loveness Mudzuru (19) and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi (18), who approached the court through their lawyer, Tendai Biti, challenging the Customary Marriages Act.

They argued it infringed on the constitutional rights of young girls and boys who were getting married at an early age.

The order, granted yesterday by Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba and eight other ConCourt judges, read: “It is further declared that Section 22(1) of the Marriage Act or any law, practice or custom authorising a person under 18 years of age to marry or to be married is inconsistent with the provisions of Section 78(1) of the Constitution and, therefore, invalid to the extent of the inconsistency. The law is hereby struck down.”


The court further ruled: “With effect from January 20, 2016, no person, male or female, may enter into marriage, including an unregistered customary law union or any other union including the one arising out of religion or religious rite, before attaining the age of eighteen (18) years.”

The court ruled that if an underage girl falls pregnant, she would not be forced into marriage but remain under the custody of her parents.

The applicants, Mudzuru and Tsopodzi, had cited the ministries of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and that of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development and the Attorney-General as respondents in the matter.

Biti argued that the Constitution sought to protect the rights of children and, as such, the courts should declare some sections of the Marriage Act unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, several child rights groups and human rights defenders yesterday hailed the ruling.

“This progressive decision is a mark that the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court is building up a body of constitutional jurisprudence, which will also be quoted in other jurisdictions and should assist the Africa-wide campaign against child marriage,” legal think-tank Veritas said on its website.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said the ruling would go a long way in preserving the sexual reproductive health and human rights of minors below the age of 18.

“ZADHR has always campaigned for the abolition of early and forced child marriages, emphasising that such marriages compromise the health, education and basic human rights of the child,” the organisation’s executive director, Calvin Fambirai, said.

Early marriages have been blamed for perpetuating the cycle of poverty and an increase in both maternal and child mortality.

10 Responses to ConCourt bans child marriages

  1. Mukanya January 21, 2016 at 8:17 am #

    This is a welcome relief to all honest living Zimbabweans living/staying/residing with children as defined by this belated ConCourt ruling. My appeal is to have this hall-mark ruling pronounced loudly to Johannes Tomana.

  2. Asi Chii Nhai January 21, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    Is the this law complete? I don’t think so, Ko who is to be responsible for the expenses of the pregnancy I also think the man responsible for the pregnancy should be responsible
    The law seems to be punishing the girl’s parents. If the man is below 18 the boy’s parents should also be responsible for the pregnancy even if they don’t marry

    • ele January 21, 2016 at 9:12 am #

      I would agree with you. It appears there is something missing here or is it an ommission by reporters. e.g. this law seems to deal with marriage of minors but does not deal with the real issues that leads to such marriages, i.e. sex. So it allows sex, bans marriage and burdens the parents of say an impregnated child to take care of. I think the law should deal with the age of consent also and raise it to 18 for it to be complete. Also just a point of interest if two children below the age of 18 decide to cohabit without even the consent of the parents what is the position at law

  3. brovictor January 21, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    Whats the age of consent zviya.chicken and egg scenario,which comes first.

  4. maita January 21, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Parents be ready to look after bastards because kids nowadays have become very sexually active with some even lying about their ages. So if your daughter lies to her boyfriend kuti she is 18 when she is 16 and she gets pregnant you have to look after her and not marry her even if the responsible person wants.

  5. maita January 21, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I expected this same court to make sure sex with a girl under the age of 18 will be deemed statutory rape.

  6. Mandinyepera January 21, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    Statutory rape applies to under 16, so what this “development” means is that if a girl is impregnated in the 16-18 years window, the boy/man will not be allowed to be responsible and start a family until the age 18. Kana achida hake anongotenga grocery nekubhadhara damage. Kana asingadi musikana oenda ku maintenance court. Saka musikana we18 years can consent to sex but not marriage, but culture yedu inoti “no sex before marriage”. Which should come first?

  7. Mandinyepera January 21, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    * musikana we16 years can consent to sex but not marriage…

  8. crazy January 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    laughable!!! totally comical … and this is what you get when you appoint Zanu-RM judges

  9. chackuchichi January 21, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    And don’t forget the boy or the men responsible for pregnancy to be jailed for 6 and above years. Bt parents of the girl/s to take care of the pregnancy #finish# . Down to the village headmen, chiefs to report such matters.

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