Where are the MPs? … as law contradicts itself on child marriages

By Daniel Chigundu
Members of Parliament appear to have gone to sleep whilst on duty and are not playing their constitutional roles, which has resulted in citizens being disadvantaged by numerous contradicting laws.
Parliament by nature is supposed to play the oversight role, representative role and more importantly the legislative role in a country.
And although it has been working on some laws, it appears MPs are turning a blind eye or taking too long to deal with contradicting laws that are helping to fuel the issue of child marriages.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) Zimbabwe has conflicting legal provisions on the minimum age for marriage. The constitution does not expressly prohibit child marriage, and a number of laws chiefly the Marriages Act, Children’s Act and the Customary Marriages Act effectively condone it.
The gaps in the law, extreme poverty, poor access to education, harmful religious beliefs and social norms are helping to fuel child marriages in Zimbabwe.
It is estimated that about 31 percent of girls in Zimbabwe are married before they reach the age of 18 years.
HRW senior Africa researcher Dew Mavhinga told the media recently that Government needs to be serious as the future of girls is endangered by the conflicting laws and lack of commitment by political leaders.
“The Zimbabwean Government should show that it is serious about tackling the scourge of child marriage and raise the minimum age to 18 years.
“The future of millions of African girls depends on African leaders taking action to end a devastating practice that robs girls of education and exposes them to abuse.
“We have contradictory laws in Zimbabwe and the Government’s position is also contradictory because on the one hand the Ministry of Women Affairs launched a campaign to end child marriages. But the same Government in October 2014 opposed a case in the Constitutional Court by two former child-brides to criminalise child marriages and declare 18 years as the minimum age for marriage and to have all marriage laws amended.”
“So we need political leadership, especially in setting 18 years as the minimum age for marriage, but at the moment there is no commitment even in the allocation of resources,” he said.
Speaking at the same occasion Real Open Opportunities Transformation Support (ROOTS) director Beatrice Savadye said that while alignment of laws is important the community also needs to be empowered to be able to benefit from the law.
“If the laws are aligned and the community is not empowered to apply those laws then we are doing nothing.”
“We are having meetings but without the girls and communities we are just doing road shows and the girls go back home to the same conditions, this is where we are missing some of these things, because we are not involving the people and the community,” she said.
Government needs to take an active role on this. Christmas is over, it’s time to kick start the new year.

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