Government will intensify the fight against child abuse following the death of 14-year-old Memory Machaya while giving birth at a shrine in Manicaland, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima has said.
This comes amid revelations that the girl’s paternal aunt, who is reportedly married to one of the church’s top leaders, arranged for Memory to be married-off after taking her from her parents in Kwekwe.
In a statement, Prof Mavima said: “The ministry would like to reassure the general public that it will intensify its efforts in the fight against child abuse and requests the collaboration of communities in this cause because it takes a village to raise a child.
“The ministry further urges the nation to desist from violating children’s rights and to report all cases of actual or suspected abuse to make Zimbabwe a country where every child is free from abuse and thrives to attain their full potential for the betterment of the nation.”
Government, Prof Mavima said, had noted with concern an upsurge in sexual abuse, teen pregnancies and children being married off, especially since the outbreak of coronavirus. In an interview yesterday, Memory’s maternal aunt, Ms Alice Mabika, said her niece was taken from her parents by her paternal aunt who is married to one of the church’s top leaders.
“Her aunt, who is married to Mr Marange (one of the church leaders), took her to Mutare. She is the one who married her off in the church. My sister (Memory’s mother) didn’t grow up in this church. She only realised that her husband’s family goes to the church when she went to his rural home,” she said.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Child Rights Coalition (ZCRC) said Memory’s sexual exploitation and circumstances surrounding her death were disturbing.
“As a result of that harmful practice, Memory was denied enjoyment and access to some of her fundamental rights, including education, as she was forced to drop out of school and her right to healthcare as she delivered her baby.”
Zimbabwe outlawed marriage of girls under the age of 18 in 2016, but the practice has continued in some religious sects.
The legal age of consent in Zimbabwe is 16 years.