THE new Marriages Act passed into law late in May by President Emmerson Mnangagwa promoted adultery, lawyers have said.

The Act is said to have radically changed marriage laws in Zimbabwe after the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:11) and Customary Marriages Act (Chapter 5:07) were repealed.

The new Act, which introduced a civil partnership and a qualified civil marriage, also recognises an unregistered customary law union as a marriage.

Speaking to NewsDay yesterday, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association director Abigail Matsvayi Pasipanodya said though the law was bringing in a new perspective, it also had some flaws.

“We are, however, concerned that unregistered customary law unions (kuroorana pachivanhu) are not fully recognised, that civil partnerships can co-exist with civil marriages with the effect of eroding the monogamous nature of civil marriages,” she said.

All marriages are entered into between a man and a woman above 18 years of age.

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Facilitating marriage of children under 18 years is now a criminal offence.

A lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The Act has brought some changes in that it has added marriages that were not initially recognised. It has brought in civil partnerships in that before, they were not supposed to be in any other relationship with any other person. That was taken as adultery. The new Act, however, brings a relief in adultery in that a person who is married can have another relationship outside their marriage.

“In a way, the new Act addresses another gap where if a man had a small house in case of death, that family, when it came to property sharing, was left out. The property-sharing process only catered for the legal spouse, so it’s (Act) trying to address a problem of catering for both, however, creating other issues again.”

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights applauded government for enacting the Marriages Act to protect children.

In its statement, ZLHR said although the enactment of this crucial law was laudable, there was significant work which remained to be done in the fight against the child marriage scourge.

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