Gift Phiri 3 April 2017
HARARE – Parliament will soon approve a new law targeted at ending child
marriages and enforce equal distribution of matrimonial property upon
divorce or separation of spouses.
The law, expected to come into force by year-end, is part of reforms under
the new Constitution overwhelmingly adopted in a March 2013 referendum.
The impending passage of the law – under the General Laws Amendment Bill –
coincides with the Supreme Court’s calls for quicker and deeper reforms to
help align the Marriages Act and the Customary Marriages Act to the new
“…the Marriages Act and the Customary Marriages Act are among the pieces
of legislation which were identified as requiring alignment to the
Constitution,” Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Emmerson
Mnangagwa told the National Assembly last week.
“Some of the provisions in these Acts are incongruent with the supreme law
of the land and thus need to be aligned thereto. Such issues as the
abolition of child marriages in whatever form and the equitable
distribution of matrimonial property upon divorce or separation of
spouses, amongst other issues, is the subject matter to be considered in
aligning these Acts,” he said, adding that “the two Acts will be
harmonised under one Marriages Act”.
“At present, the Memorandum of Principles of the Marriage Bill has been
prepared and will be presented before Cabinet for approval,” Mnangagwa,
who is also vice president and leader of government business in the
National Assembly, said.
“If the principles are approved, the drafting and consultative processes
will follow before the Bill is presented to Parliament. It is important
to note that the Marriages Bill is one of the legislation which formed
part of the legislative agenda as presented by President Robert Mugabe
when he officially opened the current parliamentary session in October
“As soon as the consultative and drafting stages are completed, the Bill
will be brought before this…House. We are hopeful that this will be done
during the current parliamentary session.”
He said some of the proposed amendments to the marriage regime,
particularly the outlawing of child marriages, will be dealt with under
the General Laws Amendment Bill.
“Drafting of these provisions is almost complete and these will be
contained under the General Laws,” Mnangagwa said.
This comes on the back of two former child brides dragging government to
court in a ground-breaking bid to get child marriages declared illegal and
The then Deputy Chief Justice, Judge Luke Malaba, now the Chief
Justice-designate, declared unconstitutional the long enduring practice of
child marriages in January last year.
Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi had argued that child marriage,
which is rife in Zimbabwe, was a form of child abuse which traps girls in
lives of poverty and suffering.
In their statements to the Constitutional Court (Con-Court), Tsopodzi and
Mudzuru – now 20 and 21 – argued that the Marriage Act was discriminatory
because it set the minimum age at 16 for girls and 18 for boys. The
Customary Marriage Act sets no minimum age.
In her affidavit, Mudzuru , who was married at 16 and had two children
before she was 18, described how child marriage and poverty created a
“Young girls who marry early and often in poor families are then forced to
produce young children in a sea of poverty and the cycle begins again,”