The government says the Marriages Bill which is currently before Parliament will see victims of child marriages having the same rights to division of property at annulment.
The Bill, which is seeking to consolidate all marriages in Zimbabwe is also seeking to effect a ban on child marriages in line with the Constitutional Court judgment in the case of Mudzuru, Tsopodzi versus the State in 2016.
The Constitutional Court banned marriages of boys and girls under the age of 18 and this prohibition is expected to extend to both types of marriage, customary and non-customary.
Child marriages have been an issue in Zimbabwe with more than 20% of girls said to be getting married before they reach the age of 18 due to such issues as poverty and religion.
Speaking in the National Assembly, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi said the child brides will have the same rights as other spouses on divorce.
“…According to Clause 42 (3) of the Bill, the annulment of a marriage contracted by a child will not affect any rights the child may have acquired as a result of the marriage.
“This means that on annulment, the child will have the same rights to maintenance and division of property as a spouse has on divorce.
“In conclusion, Honourable Members, I urge you to bring harmony to our marriage laws by enacting this most important Bill and raising it as a pillar to support this most cherished of our institutions, namely marriage,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in its report from the public hearing said people applauded the Bill for banning child marriages but raised concern on its failure to raise the issue of the age of consent.
“The Bill does not discuss the issue of the age of consent to sexual activity. As the regulation of age of consent to sexual activity forms part of the sexual offences regime, this is provided for in the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act [Chapter 9:23].
“Whilst the Clause is commendable in outlawing child marriages, members of the public submitted that there are still shortcomings and there is scope to improve the Bill by strengthening mechanisms for prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of child marriages, and also through provision of sufficient support to survivors of child marriage and measures to mitigate the impact of the same on their lives.
“Clause 4: Consent to marriage
The Bill was commended for providing full and free consent by each part to marriage as this would reduce or do away with cases of forced marriages. Members of the public, however, felt that the Bill should make provisions for consultation of parents or guardians before any marriage is solemnised