I am writing, shaky hands-shaky hands because of joy. The constitutional court today delivered its long-awaited ruling on child marriage with the application to outlaw child marriage succeeding. Section 22 subsection one the Marriage Act [Chapter 5:11] was rendered unconstitutional. The con-court ruled that no male or female person in Zimbabwe may enter into any marriage, including an unregistered customary law union or any other union, including one arising out of religion or a religious rite, before attaining the age of eighteen.
The ruling follows an application in 2014 by two victims of child marriage, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi who took the government to court arguing that the customary marriage act is unconstitutional. The two were represented by Tendai Biti. Meanwhile children’s organisations and civil society have taken to social media to celebrate this milestone.
This is why we went to Zambia for the African Union Summit on Ending Child Marriages in Africa. Ranting and hoping for reforms that would do away with the abduction and sexual abuse of young girls. Attempting to challenge laws that discriminate on the rights of children. This is why we have launched social media campaigns and attempted to talk to our elders and parents about the several demerits of marrying off young girls. This is why we have braved going to Chiefs and different villages in Zimbabwe to ask them to shun what they call culture and instead call it abuse.
What therefore this SHOULD mean for Zimbabwe is that the prevalence rate of child marriages should be at ZERO. What it means is that no parent or guardian should allow their child to get married under whatever circumstances. This means that Zimbabwe should follow up on it’s mandate to keep girls in schools and not in the bedroom.
This therefore means that we should be able to realise that marriage does not reduce poverty but actually increases it. Zimbabwe will soon realise the gains from keeping girls in schools by seeing an improved economy championed by learned women. Zimbabwe should begin to see no mothers of three below the age of 18. No young girls read women infected by HIV due to marriage to old men. No young girls with scarred wombs, scarred by overuse.
For me this means every girl today under the age of 18 should not be looked at as a potential candidate for marriage. Any girl below the age of 18 should not be dreamt of by any church elder as their God given wife. We want girls in school, creating dreams for better, developed societies and not nursing babies or struggling with marital woes.
This is a historical day in Zimbabwe and all men and women should celebrate it. The law now protects our children, sisters, nieces etc. Most importantly the buck does not stop there. Young women have to be motivated and mentored to understand that this law is for them and they should not champion it’s violation. Young girls should get the support they need so they protect future generations from abuse.
I am a bit calm now, in a serene atmosphere of joy.