GOVERNMENT has been accused of not doing enough to eradicate child marriages after a 15-year-old girl died at a church shrine while giving birth.
Nokutenda Hwaramba, from Norton, died while giving birth at an apostolic sect shrine in Bikita, Masvingo province, on Wednesday.Child rights group Shamwari Yemwanasikana cast doubt on government’s commitment towards protecting young girls.
“Should we trust our law to fully protect the girl child? Are parents doing enough to protect the girl child? How many girls are giving birth at church shrines? Are efforts in ending child marriages in vain?” the group asked in a statement yesterday.
Analysts blamed incidences of early child marriages on failure by authorities to arrest culprits, mainly in the apostolic sects where the practice is rife.In 2021, 14-year-old, Anna Machaya died while giving birth at Johane Marange shrine in Manicaland province.
In January this year, Ferby Munyafi (15) of Chiadzwa village in Marange died from excessive bleeding, while delivering under the watch of a faith healer.
Analyst Vivid Gwede said the perpetrators were hiding behind church doctrines to escape from prosecution.
“The church is not above the law, especially on criminal matters such as statutory rape and child marriages. However, we see that the government has not been able to enforce these laws,” Gwede said.“In exchange for giving these violators hiding behind church doctrines protection from prosecution, the ruling politicians have been guaranteed political backing and votes. The result is that so much iniquity now resides in the church.
“We urge that the church must remain a force for good even if it means updating some of the doctrines in line with new societal enlightenment.”
Analyst Methuseli Moyo said: “Child marriages are rampant even among non-apostolic faith communities. The problem is families and communities who hide the issue and make it difficult to eradicate.
“I think the apostolic sects have been deliberately spotlighted by the media because of their religious and political stance. Once the issue becomes politicised, it becomes even more difficult to solve it.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said investigations were underway on the death of Nokutenda.
“Police are currently conducting investigations on what exactly happened. We will provide more information later,” Nyathi said.
Reports say approximately 34% of girls under the age of 18 are being married off in contravention of the national Constitution.