By Daniel Chigundu
HARARE WEST legislator Jessie Majome says she is waiting to get an appointment with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa so that she can present a proposed draft bill which seeks among other things to remove places in the country’s statutes that allow child marriage.
Various institutions, individuals, legislators and civic organizations are fighting against child marriages in the country which has seen 31 percent of girls said to be getting married before they reach 18 years.
Two early child marriage victims Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi and had to engage the country’s Constitutional Court to help ban the practice and set 18 years as the age of consent.
While there are various reasons that have led to the rampant cases of early child marriages in the country, child rights activists have largely blamed the contradictions in the country’s laws.
Majome told Parliament that with the help of various organizations they had managed to draft a proposed bill that will help eradicate early child marriages but is only waiting to present it to VP Mnangagwa who is also the minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
“I am happy to say that with the help of organisations that includes the Research and Advocacy Unit, Camfed, the Child Protection Society of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Plan International and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, we were able to even obtain the services of a drafter to draft a proposed Bill to remove all those places in our statute laws that allow child marriage.
“That Bill is indeed ready for presentation to the Hon. Vice President and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs as and when it is ready.
“It seeks to amend the Marriage Act Chapter 5:11, the Customary Marriages Act Chapter 5:07 and the Birth and Deaths Registration Act to tighten its provisions requiring the registration of ages of children. It also seeks to amend the Children Act because the Act also correspondents to the provision in the Marriage Act that allowed children to be married.
“Also the Criminal Codification and Law Reform Act to remove what it was calling extra marital sexual intercourse with children, so that it is clear as the constitutional court say that we do not want any sexual intercourse with children at all so that – in the Shona language there is a proverb that says – Regai dzive shiri mazai haana muto – loosely translated it means let eggs hatch into hens because eggs cannot produce gravy or soup,” she said.
Majome said MPs should do their best to ensure girls are protected so that they are not abused sexually in a glorified form of abuse which is called marriage. She added that there is no reason why girls should baptise into having sexual intercourse when they have the rest of their lives to have it.
Meanwhile, the Harare West legislator said she first saw VP Mnangagwa and lobbied him about the issue on March 24, 2014 and that the draft proposed bill was finalised on May 16, 2015.
Majome has however expressed disappointment on the time it has taken to get an appointment with Mnangagwa and is now wishing if she had submitted it as a Private Member’s Bill.
“I will present it when the VP’s permanent secretary gives me an appointment. I’ve been waiting for so long. I’m now wishing I had submitted it as a private member’s Bill!
“I chose this route because Bills are normally introduced by ministers. One needs a minister’s/Vice President’s permission to introduce a private member’s bill. So giving it to the minister seems faster but in this case it seems to be taking long,” Majome said.
While private member’s bills have been passed in other countries around the world, the same has not happened in Zimbabwe.-ENDS
By Daniel Chigundu