Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent
ENDING child marriages can play an important role in alleviating poverty and in promoting economic development, Government has said.
Addressing journalists in Harare on the Day of the African Child, deputy minister of Women’s Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Dr Jennifer Mhlanga said women have a huge responsibility in society in ending child marriages.
She said the issue of child marriages was complex as it was rooted in gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are inferior to boys and men.
Deputy Minister Mhlanga said the Government has put in place institutions, laws and policies that guard against child marriages.
“I am happy that on the 27th of May 2022 the President of Zimbabwe passed into law a new marriage law, the Marriages Act (Chapter 5:15). This new law prohibits the marriage of minors, that is, boys and girls under the age of 18. Facilitating marriage of children under 18 years is now a criminal offence,” she said.
Deputy Minister Mhlanga said child marriages were made worse by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity.
She said in a society with gender inequality, women and girls were treated as second-class citizens, denied their human rights and valued less because of their sex.
“Child marriage is one expression of this gender inequality. Child marriages and harmful practices are a social ill which negatively affects the socio-economic development of children, especially girls.
“As a result, there is a need for strong interventions to eliminate this scourge as it hinders the role of women to participate in the development arena. Child marriage can also curb women’s agency and limit their bargaining power in their households, including possibly with regard to the decision to enter the labour force. One of the causes of child marriages is poverty.”
United Nations resident coordinator Mr Edward Kallon said the United National through the newly adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Framework (2022-2026) promotes interventions to tackle poverty, eliminate gender-based violence and all harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriages.
“A number of initiatives including the Spotlight Initiative continue to champion the prevention of child marriages in the country,” he said.
UNICEF representative Dr Tajudeen Oyewale said, “UNICEF is grateful to the partners who responded to our invitation to join hands to increase public awareness on the high percentage of girls being married before 18, and to call on everybody to act against child marriages.”
Ms Fatou Aminata Lo applauded the recent adoption of legislation setting the legal age for marriage to 18 years.
“This is a major development that comes as a result of years of evidence-based advocacy and we owe it to the girls of this country to enforce this law so that they can be seen for what they are: girls, not brides, not free labour, not commodities. Girls are looking up to us to remove the many obstacles society has put on their pathways,” she said.
UNICEF was joined by football star Marvelous Nakamba, musician Selmor Mtukudzi and international rugby player and UNICEF regional goodwill ambassador Tendai (the beast) Mtawarira.