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Child Marriage Challenger Speaks Out as Zimbabweans Hail ConCourt Decision

Attorney Tendai Biti with the women who stopped child marriages in Zimbabwe. (Photo: Patricia Mudadigwa)

Attorney Tendai Biti with the women who stopped child marriages in Zimbabwe. (Photo: Patricia Mudadigwa)

Two women, who challenged the constitutionality of child marriages in the Constitutional Court and won the case, are happy that this will ensure that children can now live without fear of being dragged into unwanted marriages.

One of the women, Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, who was represented by attorney Tendai Biti, said she is happy that the Constitutional Court outlawed early child marriages, which had become common in Zimbabwe.

“About the judgement, I feel excited because I have been waiting for this moment because last year when we went to court there was a lot of criticism that we had brought it (to court). But I am glad that finally they put their heads together to protect girls who were being married off at an early age.”

Tsopodzi, who got married at a tender age and will soon be turning 20, said she hopes the judgement will change the lives of young women in Zimbabwe and protect the girl-child by preserving their sexual reproductive health.

“I was married at 15 but there was nothing to do. My father forced me into it. It was boring and it wasn’t good at all. My life is no longer good. I am not going to school and I did not even finish my education. My life is not in a good state, it was disturbed.”

A Harare resident, Tawanda Sibanda, said it was a shame that the state contested the matter instead of just conceding that anyone under the age of 18 is too young to get married.

Sibanda said, “This is a welcome judgement given the fact that it advances the rights of children. The Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was not supposed to take this matter in the first instance defending it on the basis that he is the very person that is charged or mandated to align the laws to the constitution.

“Child marriage is one particular provision of the laws which does not tally with the constitution as it states that 18 years is the age for a girl to find a family yet the Marriages Act and different customs be they religious or otherwise allow especially the girl child to get married even at 16. So, it is my belief that the defendant should not have defended this matter in court.”

Sibanda further said the government should just align relevant laws to the new constitution in order to enforce the court ruling.

“They should have just aligned it to the constitution as they are mandated to align different laws to the constitution. So what it means is that the minister responsible for legal and parliamentary affairs, the minister of justice, he is not willing or should we say he does not have the will be it political to align the laws and the different statutes in the constitution.

“This explains why it is taking this long for the laws to be aligned because the minister himself is not willing to do so. This could be envisaged from the spirited defence he was putting up when the issue of child marriage went to court.”

Tsungai Mutongwizo, another Harare resident, also applauded the judgement and said some women were afraid of raising girl children because of forced marriages.

Mutongwizo said, “Zimbabwe was becoming a place that we were scared of raising girls and young children wondering who would protect them. In terms of the new constitution this is a giant step for the country, the judicial system in protecting the rights of vulnerable people, young girls are vulnerable and need the protection of the law.

“This is equal protection of the law, this is also the bill of rights being put into action. Well done Constitution Court of Zimbabwe and we look forward to more protection of women. We look forward to more protection of the vulnerable and the sustaining of our rights even in the civil and political realm.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that no child in Zimbabwe should marry or get married before attaining the age of 18.