BY VANESSA GONYE
WOMEN Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni yesterday said government was making strides towards ending sexual abuse of young girls and child marriages.
In a statement, Nyoni said progress has also been made to bring to book all those involved in the marrying off of a 14-year-old Marange girl, Memory Machaya, who was impregnated at a very tender age and died last month while giving birth at an Apostolic sect shrine in Manicaland province.
Nyoni’s statement follows a public outcry over the death of the pregnant minor, with civic society, women’s groups and the public calling for the arrest of the perpetrator for rape.
The Women Affairs minister described Machaya’s ordeal as rape and a situation which needed urgent action from the law enforcement agents.
She described the practice as “a bad vice which exposes the girl child and women as a whole, to social ills”.
“The case, however, serves to remind us the scourge of teenage pregnancies and early child marriages that continue to affect the lives of thousands of girls in the communities.
“Child marriage is a violation of multiple rights of the girl child that include denying her rights to education, health and well-being. It exposes the girl child to gender-based violence (GBV), HIV and other health-related conditions. It puts the young mother in a cycle of poverty,” she said.
Nyoni said marrying off young girls also denied them a chance to contribute to the development of their communities and the country at large.
She called for inclusive action against the bad practices, adding that religious institutions and cultures that permitted child marriages should know that they were outlawed by constitutional provisions which clearly stipulate the age of marriage as 18.
“I also wish to take this opportunity to encourage our communities to be vigilant and speak out on cases of GBV, and shun a culture of silence that continues to damage the very moral and social fabrics. It is this silence that will destroy our communities.
“With the current COVID-19 prevention and containment measures, we want to urge communities to be vigilant on GBV. We need to stand together and fight together and collectively declare zero tolerance to child marriages,” she said. Nyoni said a team had been dispatched from her ministry to Marange to assist the Home Affairs ministry to identify the culprits and bring them to book.
The country continues to experience GBV despite that each year around November and December, Zimbabwe commemorates 16 days of activism against GBV. A number of GBV cases have been recorded during the COVID-19 lockdown period.