New Marriage Act gets thumbs up; hailed for criminalising ‘impregnating and pledging’ girls

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By Reason Razao

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has commended government for passing the Marriage Bill into law, which among key provisions criminalises child marriages.

The Marriages Act No.1 of 2022, effectively set the age of consent at 18, making it a punishable offence to impregnate or marry children below the stipulated age.

In a statement Wednesday, ZHRL welcomed the new legislation saying it was long overdue.

“Recently passed into law, the Marriages Act is commendable because it unequivocally abolishes and criminalises child marriages and will hopefully if implemented, protect children particularly girls, who over the years have borne the brunt of the unlawful and despicable practice,” read the statement.

“Enactment of the Marriage Act is also laudable because it finally aligns the marriage laws of the country to a large extent with the Constitution and Zimbabwe’s obligations under international law,” added ZHRL.

Although the enactment of this crucial law according to ZHRL is laudable, there is significant work which remains to be done in the fight against the scourge of child marriages.

“In order to fully eradicate the scourge of child marriages from our society, the other two arms of government – the executive and judiciary need to commit to the effective enforcement of the law, which now criminalises child marriages as well as to enhance access to justice for children who may need protection of the courts.

“Moreover, the courts should pro-actively invoke and apply the provisions of the Marriages Act in order to bring an end to the harmful practice of child marriages,”said ZHRL.

The representative body urged government to implement nationwide programmes to raise awareness on the prohibition and criminalisation of child marriages.

“It is also important for traditional leaders, such as chiefs and headmen to use their significant influence in their communities to ensure that the practice of child marriages is effectively eradicated,” added the statement.

Child marriages are rife in Zimbabwe, partly due to traditional beliefs and customs which endorse the practice.

“ZLHR urges the public and community leaders, such as religious leaders, to play their part towards eradicating the despicable and unlawful practice of child marriages,” said ZHRL.