BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/ OBERT SIAMILANDU/ NHAU MANGIRAZI
THE European Union (EU) has urged Parliament to expedite the crafting of laws that penalise child marriages to strengthen the fight against gender-based violence (GBV) in communities.
The call was made as government, the EU and the United Nations in partnership with the Epworth Local Board launched a safe market and one-stop centre to end violence against women and girls on Thursday.
The launch coincided with the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which is running under a localised theme End Violence Against Women Now: No to Child Marriages!
EU head of co-operation Frank Porte also challenged police to thoroughly investigate child marriage cases and bring culprits to book.
“We all need to stand up, speak out and act against child marriages so that girls can be children before they become wives and mothers,” Forte said.
“Child marriages should not be normalised in any society and I would like to call the ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] to thoroughly investigate child marriage cases and obtain justice for the victims. I call upon the Parliament of Zimbabwe to expedite the passing of legislation that will protect girls from early marriage.”
Speaking during the same event, girl rights activists called on lawmakers and enforcement authorities to spotlight child marriages and treat the practice as a human rights violation.
United Nations acting resident co-ordinator Alex Gasasira said failure to implement necessary steps to end GBV would reverse the positive strides made to reinforce gender equality and the economic empowerment of women.
“As UN, it is our strong belief that this safe market, which comprises 96 secure well-lit stalls, children’s resting room and play area, separate female, and male ablution facilities, and clean water facilities will serve as a model in our collective efforts to prevent SGBV,” Gasasira said.
He reiterated the importance for governments to prevent sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in public places.
Child marriages and forced marriages are illegal, but reports show that an estimated 34% of girls were being married off before turning 18.
The country has ratified several conventions to ending child marriages such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990 and the 2008 African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
In 2016, the Constitutional Court outlawed child marriages.
Women Affairs deputy minister Jennifer Mhlanga said: “The one-stop centre will address a number of challenges related to gender-based violence service access by providing multi-sectoral services, including health psychosocial, safety and security and legal under one roof in a survivor-centred manner.”
In Mashonaland Central province, a one-centre stop situated at Bindura Provincial Hospital provides GBV victims with counselling and other services.
Harare-based GBV survivor Christine Gumunyu Mangena said: ‘‘There is a need to believe in survivors as recipients of violence. We need to make a difference and move forward in ending GBV in our communities.”
A 2019 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey report says, 39,4% of adolescent girls and women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced physical violence and 11,6% had at some point experienced sexual violence in their lives.