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Zimbabwe Gender Activists Urge Govt, Stakeholders to Implement Child Marriages Court Ruling

  • Gibbs Dube

Angela Machonesa of Plan International

Angela Machonesa of Plan International

Gender activists continue praising Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court for outlawing child marriages.

They say the government and stakeholders should ensure that the court ruling is implemented.

One of the activists, Angela Machonesa of Plan International said outreach programs will play a critical role in implementing the court order.

“We understand that causes of child marriage are deeply entrenched in our social norms attitudes and practices. Therefore we want to urge government, civic society organizations, the media and the church to collectively engage in public education so that they raise awareness at grassroots level, at household level and communities and also to bring young people on board.

“There is power to peer education among the youth and let the girls speak about it and be role models to each other.”

She noted that there was also need to engage traditional leaders and members of the Apostolic Faith, who normally engage in child marriages, in order to concientize them about the dangers of such marriages.

“The vapostori (members of the Apostolic Faith) in as much as this issues affects them and they have been perpetuating child marriages as far as research shows, we have been engaging the vapostori and most of them welcome the social programs that we have been having … but we still need to intensify bringing them on board.

“… And it doesn’t stop at engaging them we also need to give them enough material to read, you know, and get the best information that can allow them, especially leaders, go back to the church, women and the fathers and bishops and explain to them in layman language (the court ruling).”

Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court outlawed child marriages decreeing that any person who intends to get married should be at least 18 years of age.

The ruling followed an application by human rights lawyers who wanted legal age of marriage be moved to 18 for both men and women.

The case was filed by former Finance Minister and leader of the People’s Democratic Party, Tendai Biti, and two women, Ruvimbo Tsopodwa and Loveness Mudzuru.

Following the court’s ruling, Biti, who is also a lawyer, described the judgment as an important milestone in the protection of women and children’s rights.

“The court has passed what I can only describe as a revolutionary judgment for women and for girl children; the declaration that whether at customary law, whether in terms of religious rights or other cultural practices no person below the age of 18, man or woman, can get married. I think it’s an amazing judgement. I am pleased to be part of this history.”