Zimbabwe moves to criminalise child marriages
|October 24th, 2018|
|tags:||child marriage, human-rights, Zimbabwe|
For many years, human rights organisations and gender activists, including opposition legislators, tried to push through the wholesale reforms under former President Robert Mugabe’s time without any success. But the new president has adopted for debate the opposition-sponsored Bills that seek to punish adults (including parents and guardians) that allow children under the age of 18 years to be married and those that have sex with minors. Previously these cases were treated as minor offenses and perpetrators usually escaped with warnings, minor fines or just light jail sentences. Mandatory minimum jail sentences of up to 60 years for child rape are also being proposed.
When Mnangagwa, himself a former Justice minister, opened the country’s parliament on September 18, he included on the legislative agenda the Child Justice Bill, the Marriages Bill and the Mandatory Sentencing for Rape and Sexual Abuse Bill, all three new laws that seek to safeguard the rights of children, especially the girl child.
The Marriages Bill was presented to Mnangagwa by former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) legislator, Jessie Majome, in 2016 when he was still vice president and also doubled up as Justice minister. Majome also moved the motion for mandatory sentences for sex offences in Parliament.
“I am elated that after six years of lobbying government to outlaw child marriages, my proposed draft Bill and (motion) to introduce mandatory stiff sentencing for rape, government will implement these,” Majome said.
“I presented my draft bill on Marriages to remove all provision for child marriages from our statutes and strengthen the outlawing of child marriages to the (then) Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa (who was also minister of Justice). In Parliament of Zimbabwe I moved a motion to calling for mandatory stiff sentencing for rape and other GBV crimes in 2014. On both issues now President Mnangagwa accepted my proposals, I am glad he is keeping his word.”
Two years ago, the country’s Constitutional Court delivered a landmark ruling that outlawed marriage of children under the country’s age of majority (18 years). However despite the ruling, there were no subsidiary laws to support this constitutional position.
The Bills are likely to easily sail through Parliament, as there is broad consensus across the political divide on the matter. Besides, President Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party has more than a two-third majority in Parliament.
Zimbabwe is among the countries with high cases of child marriages where girls as young as 12 years old are married off due to many socio-economic factors.
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