CSOs scrutnise Marriages Bill

A GROUP of civil society organisations (CSOs) are working with grassroots communities to ensure that the Marriages Bill contains sections that promote women and discourage early child marriages.

BY OBEY MANAYITI

The organisations, which include Plan International, Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) and the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association yesterday met various groups of people from Harare, Bulawayo, Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East for the training of trainers on the Bill, which is set for public hearings soon.

In various interviews during the training workshop attended by traditional leaders and various other participants, attendees said they realised the importance of the Bill in dealing with negative patriarchal inclinations, hence they were adequately preparing for the hearings.

“The people that are gathered here work with various community-based organisations across five districts of Zimbabwe,” Michelle Bonzo Brings, a lawyer with WLSA, said.

“They work mostly around issues to do with children and some of them also work with women. The importance of this training is so that they can go back to their communities and unpack the Bill in a simplified manner so that citizens are able to contribute meaningfully on consultations that are going to take place.

“We are looking at the ban of child marriages and perhaps the gaps that need to be addressed in effectively banning child marriages and make sure that our traditional leaders, who will be marriage officers, can satisfy themselves that they are not pledging children into marriages.”

Bonzo-Brings said they were also focusing on issues regarding rights for women in marriages and with particular reference to property rights.

“This is not covered in the Bill, but it is a gap which needs to be addressed. We are also trying to see how the Bill can protect women who are neither in a civil marriage nor customary marriage for various reasons, among them disabilities or financial issues among couples, but without interfering with the sanctity of marriage.”

Blessing Mushohwe, a child rights and protection adviser with Plan International, said the objectives of training CBOs is to prepare communities to fully utilise the opportunity presented by the marriage Bill to fight certain vices.

“We unpack the marriage for community members and when Parliament goes there, they will participate meaningfully,” he said.

“Our focus is on child marriages and we are hoping that this Marriages Bill is going to protect children’s rights. We are looking at having a concrete law that criminalises child marriages.”

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