By Darlington Gatsi
THE Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) has revealed that girls in rural areas are prone to child marriages, giving birth under the age of 18 compared to their counterparts in urban areas.
This is contained in the preliminary report released by the statistics agency on the 2022 population housing and census on fertility.
The survey was carried out on females aged between the ages of 15 to 49.
“Age Specific Fertility Rate (ASFR) provides the age pattern of fertility for the women in their childbearing ages. There is an indication that women were having children at relatively younger ages, in rural areas as compared to urban areas,” reads the report.
“Child marriage is widely recognised as a violation of children’s rights and is also a direct form of discrimination against the girl child. Figures show 133 455 women aged 20 to 24 years, representing 16.2 percent of the total, were in union before attaining the age of 18 years.
“The proportion was higher, at 22.7 percent in rural areas as compared to 7.2 percent in urban areas.”
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The report brings into focus the contentious issue of child marriages which is rampant in rural areas especially in the apostolic sect where girls are married off at a young age.
According to law it is violation of children’s rights and impregnating a woman below the age of 18 attracts a jail term.
In a report released September, Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) highlighted that there is a spike in child marriages in the country owing to low child protection.
The latest Zimstat report further highlighted that a median age of women experiencing first live birth is 19 in the rural areas as compared to 21 in urban areas with Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Mashonaland West, and Mashonaland Central being fingered as recording the lowest median age.
Speaking after the release of the preliminary report, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) deputy country representative Gulnara Kadyrkulova expressed concern over the high number of young women being impregnated before reaching the age of 18.