CHILD marriage has caused serious rift amongst families and the state in Zimbabwe as the issue has been highly condemned.
Recently in Bulawayo, the second largest City in Zimbabwe, more than 1 500 school children marched targeting the hot spots were youth mingle condemning Vuzu Parties and Child Marriage in the society.
Johannes Tomana, Zimbabwe Prosecutor General’s remarks towards child marriage sparked the debate and call for him to be fired from his position as his comments were viewed by masses as distasteful and not worthy to be from a person occupying high office.
Child marriage is practiced countrywide in Zimbabwe and customary marriage is said to be brewing and fermenting the condemned practice that is not even protected by the old and the new supreme law of the land.
People in Zimbabwe are trading counter accusations as the constitution and marriage rights are clear about consent to sex and marriage.
The Member of Zimbabwe Junior Parliament, Child Minister of State and Provincial Affairs for Bulawayo, Honourable Mandipa Siluma said that youths of today and their parents need to be empowered so that they are able to stand up against drug and child marriage.
“I wish to see a new generation in Zimbabwe that fights for fair rights that will bring visible generation and build the nation.
“Honestly, can a 12 year-old consent to sex and marriage, be it boys or girls?
Hon Siluma urged Zimbabweans to take part in accelerating a collective effort in preserving the next generation.
She said her generation has become a serious victim of child marriage and indulging in early sex as a result it has depleted their brighter future as youths.
Peer pressure, lack of knowledge and guidance are pointers that Hon Siluma pointed out as leading to early sexual practice and child marriage in Zimbabwe.
Dr Rebecca Chisamba, Talk Show Host has seriously condemned women who take part in process the of child marriage in Zimbabwe and said parents are their own worst enemy as they accept or consent to the barbaric act.
“Women are their own worst enemy, why do women ululate and receive money and gifts when these young girls and boys get married.
“We will never end this bad act as long as some sections of our community find joy and nothing sinister in a 12-year-old getting married and consenting to having sex with a person older than her father,” said Dr Chisamba.
She said that youths are important and child marriage and sexual violence against children must come to an end as it the responsibility of adults to look after the youths as they are the future.
“It is not a good thing for a child to get married though people come up with excuses and this bad act has nothing to do with the bad economy faced by Zimbabwe, only greedy parents dish out their children to satisfy their ill-informed egos,” said Dr Chisamba.
“It should be stopped and perpetrators of child abusers must be arrested and get stiffer sentence so that they do not do it and discourage others from practicing it.
“In most Apostolic Churches, leaders claim to have dreamt getting married to a child, this is rampant in Shamva and Mashonaland Central though it’s a national problem” she added.
She said some peoples beliefs are not worthy to be listened to and how can one get cured from HIV by sleeping or marring a 12-year-old girl or boy.
“Parents are eating their own children by consenting to their early marriage hence the high figures of divorce cases in the country,” she said.
She encouraged women to stand up and challenge early child marriage and amend the constitution as it has no single clause that protects children from getting married.
Lizwe Jamela who works for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights as the Regional Manager, speaking in his own capacity explained how the new supreme law of the land has no legal framework that prohibited children from getting married.
In Zimbabwe there are three types of marriages and none of them stipulates age limit. In the case of traditional marriage there is likelihood of brewing polygamous marriage as only parents can consent to the act.
“Even the boy child, the father consents. At Civil Marriage, girls can get married at 16 while the boy gets married at 18, the minister of Home Affairs or the parents’ consents to the marriage.
“In terms of marriage, customary law does not know age limit, what is prohibited in the constitution is pledges of child marriages,” said Jamela.
How can a 12-year-old consent, why 12, 12 years is old can consent to sex, having sex with a person under the age of 12 is rape. It is tricky; criminal law says it is a crime to have sex with a minor, one can get married to a 12 year old and have sex.
12-16 years one can have sex if there is consent but one cannot have sex with a 12-16 year old outside marriage.
“Section 70 of the supreme law says it is an offence if you have sex or perform indecent acts with a young person outside marriage between 12-16 years and below 12 years its automatic rape,” said Jamela.
He said marriage and age of consent are two different things as one can get married with a child below 12, wait until he or she is 12 and then have sex.
There is nothing new in the constitution that protects children from getting married. Sec 78 talks about marriage rights, it says persons who have attained age of 18 have a right to find a family and you don’t need a consent from the ministry of home affairs or your parents. Section 78 also prohibits marrying between people of the same sex.
The constitution cannot take you any further, it at 18 it takes away someone to consent on your behalf.
However, Jamela differed with the point raised by Dr Chisamba that women are their worst enemies when it comes to consent of marriage by a 12 year old child.
Jamela said in most cases women are only given change, asked to ululate and they are the custodians of patriarchy.
“It’s a man’s game, only men are in-charge of everything, if women happen to be there it’s when there are introductions. Marriage processes are a man’s institution, only those women who are described as deviant have a say when their children are marrying,” said Jamela.
He emphasized that in terms of the new supreme law of the land, legally, there is no act that directly prohibit children from getting married.
About the condemned Tomana mantra, Jamela said that Tomana was supposed to be moaning the legal framework and making efforts to rectify the legal framework and protect children.
“It’s not favor but abuse from a high government prosecutor general who has influence to bring to the attention of Attorney General the gaps that exists in legal framework in a bid to address these gaps and come up with a legal framework that protects the children,” commented Jamela.
Dr Chisamba refused to comment on Tomana’swidely condemned views on child marriage and consent to sex.
The Zimbabwe First Lady, Amai Dr Grace Mugabe has openly described Tomana as a Government official who does not deserve to occupy that office.
Civic societies in Zimbabwe are up in arms against Tomana they want him to go and that the new constitution must be amended despites it being new.