BY SILAS NKALA
MASHONALAND Central province has recorded the highest number of child marriages in the country with 49,5% of girls and 6,7% boys said to be getting married at a young age.
This was revealed in a concept note of the 2021 National Gender Forum prepared by the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) under the theme Action Towards the Eradication of Harmful Practises Which Breed Child Marriages and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Young Girls.
ZGC said the prevalence of child marriages in Zimbabwe was unacceptably high with “1 in 3 (32,6%) girls and 4% boys being married before the age of 18.”
Statistics by ZGC show that Mashonaland Central province tops the list with 49,5% girls, 6,7% boys married at a young age, followed by Mashonaland West with 41,7% girls and 5,6% boys.
Mashonaland East came third with 37,8% girls and 3,9% boys, followed by Masvingo with 35,3% girls and 4,2% boys with Manicaland having 36% girls and 3,4% boys.
Matabeleland North is rated at number six with 32,9% girls and 5,5% boys entering into early child marriages, followed by the Midlands with 30,4% girls and 2,7% boys.
Matabeleland South had 22,2% girls and 1,7% boys, while Harare had at 21,7% girls and 2,7% boys, with Bulawayo being the least with 13,5% girls and 2,7% boys.
“Statistics from the Multiple Indicator Survey demonstrate that child marriage is still a challenge in Zimbabwe and disproportionately affecting more girls than boys. Further indications are that child marriage prevalence is high (40%) in rural areas as compared to urban areas (21,3%),” ZGC said.
The ZGC Act mandates the commission to convene an annual gender forum to discuss issues of concern related to the commission’s constitutional and statutory functions.
“Each year, the annual gender forum is held under a particular thematic area of concern. The 2021 annual gender forum is taking place in the backdrop of rising concerns of religious and cultural practices that fuel child marriages, sexual exploitation and abuse of young girls,” the commission said.
ZGC considers child marriage as one of the systemic barriers prejudicial to the achievement of gender equality.
The commission’s Matabeleland regional co-ordinator Dalubuhle Sibanda said they had started holding community dialogues on ending child marriages.
“We are having community dialogues on ending child marriages in the Insiza district, Bolo area along Masvingo Road today (yesterday) and at Turk Mine in Matabeleland North on December 1,” Sibanda said.