Residents slam civil partnerships clause in Marriages Bill

BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA/STEPHEN CHADENGA

THE proposed marriage law was met with resistance during public hearings in Chiredzi and Gweru last week as residents, civic society and faith-based organisations, among other stakeholders, unanimously rejected section 40 of the Marriages Amendment Bill that provides for civil partnerships.

At Chitsanga Hall in Tshovani Township, Chiredzi, participants told the Parliamentary Committee on Women Affairs chaired by Gweru Urban lawmaker Brian Dube that the offending section should be struck off.

Christ House of Worship pastor Ranger Moyo queried how the provision allowing for civil partnerships found its way into the Bill.

“We have customary marriages, civil marriages and unregistered marriages. So, a partnership cannot be grouped with marriages. We cannot debate on something that has no room in the Bill… Let us leave the issue of partnerships or just craft another Bill for it, but not in the Marriages Bill,” he said.

The committee had a torrid time trying to explain the source of the provision.

Family of God Faith Ministries International cleric White Chileka said the provision would not only tear apart society’s social fabric, but was also a mockery of ubuntu.

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Tshovani resident Rebecca Mlambo said the public hearing was the usual talk-show because the provision had already been withdrawn from the Bill.

“If reports that Cabinet recently had to withdraw section 40 of the Marriages Amendment Bill are true, how come we are discussing it? This is an awkward situation whereby someone in Harare writes this clause and Cabinet withdraws it, but still State resources are wasted coming to Chiredzi, which is over 500km from Harare, to ask people what they think about something that has already been withdrawn.”

In Gweru, residents felt the provision was inconsistent with the country’s cultural and Christian values, and would likely see an increase in suicides and domestic violence cases.

“We will see an increase in suicides if civil partnerships are to be allowed. Moreover, society would go up-side down,” Midlands State University chaplain Menson Mpofu said.

Former Gweru Urban councillor Taurai Demo said civil partnerships would see an increase in domestic violence as such unions would interfere with relationships in registered marriages.

Thembinkosi Mula concurred, arguing that allowing such partnerships was tantamount to institutionalising prostitution.

“This Bill is ill-conceived and has misplaced priorities and should, therefore, be totally rejected,” he said.

A member of the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Enita Nyathi, however, disagreed with the general sentiments, arguing that civil partnerships should be allowed among single people.

“Those already in registered marriages should be barred from entering into civil partnerships, but the unions should be a preserve of single people,” she said.

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