Spare a thought for victims of child marriages

A COUPLE of years ago, the nation celebrated after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruled that child marriages contravened the Constitution and the Marriage Act must be amended to outlaw the practice.

Two years down the line, legislators are yet to discuss the law and this is a missed opportunity for the country.

Yes, political debate is taking precedence with elections on the horizon, but there is life after the polls and this should be what legislators should have in mind when they are in Parliament.

Elections will have policy effects for five or so years, but ending child marriages is an epoch defining act that will have ramifications long into the country’s future.

It is imperative now that legislators, in a bi-partisan manner, come together and end child marriages once and for all.

The legislature should take up the mantle where the ConCourt ended by crafting laws that punish child marriages.

Young people, particularly girls, have been the victims of child marriages, which perpetuate a cycle of poverty and abuse, depriving them of opportunities such as education.

Perpetrators know that they will get away with child marriages because the young girls often come from poor backgrounds and marriage is seen as a way out of poverty, while the legal loopholes allow for men who marry girls to go scot-free.

Thus, it is important for legislators to prioritise ending child marriages by coming up with laws that outlaw the practice.

The legislators, whose term is coming to an end this year, had a mandate to do so much, but little has been achieved because of the pre-occupation with bickering.

There are a number of laws that need to be aligned with the Constitution and in this regard, the legislature was found woefully wanting.

Due to polarisation, maybe the failure to amend laws was due to opposing ideologies that the parties in the legislature took, but ending child marriages transcends the political divide and there is no reason why politicians did not come together to end this barbarity.

Two former child brides were brave enough to approach the courts seeking the ending of child marriages, their efforts now seem in vain because of our legislators’ failure to prioritise something that is of utmost importance and that could empower to young girls.

Thus, we urge legislators to forget their political parties for once and think of girls who are subjected to abuse by the married at young ages.

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