- Zimbabwean Government, Zimbabwean Parliament, Civil Society groups and President
Child marriage is a violation of children fundamental human rights. In Zimbabwe, girls as young as 10 are married to old men every day.
Rutendo, now 16, mother of 2, was forced into marriage to Madzibaba Japhrey (39 years) at the age of 10. She had her first child just before her 14th birthday. She is the third wife in a very poor family.
We met her through her relatives, as these children (wives) are not allowed to engage with strangers. A family member called on us to help get this child (wife) released to them. A local leader of the Apostolic church, Vapositori, as widely known told us she could not be released because their spirit has given her to this old man. Like any other cult, there are threats traded against the victim if she dares leave and sadly these kids believe. In this case, we were told that if she disobeys their God instructions to marry this old man, she is doomed and cursed for ever.
The Zimbabwe marriage Act is discriminatory against girls. The Marriage Act allows girls minimum age 16 to marry while the minimum age for boys is 18. The Customary Marriages Act is silent on a minimum age of marriage. In January 2016, the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court ruled that the Marriage Act, which allowed girls as young as 16 to be married with their parents’ consent, was unconstitutional and recognised 18 years as the legal minimum age of marriage. Zimbabwean authorities are still to amend or repeal all existing marriage laws that still allow child marriage.
Note! Children are minors and can not enter into marriage agreements and neither can they consent to sexual abuse.
The future of millions of girls depends on government ensuring the court’s ruling is quickly and fully implemented. In the interim, the government should ensure that structures are in place to implement the court’s decision and ensure that girls under 18 are not being coerced into marriage. Child marriage in Zimbabwe, just like in most societies across the world, predominantly affects girls who live in poverty and in rural areas. The less education a girl has, the more she is likely to marry during her childhood.
Since our visit to Rutendo in 2017, she was placed under religious punishment, which includes barring her from external communities.
Sadly, there are thousands of Rutendos in Zimbabwe, who cannot free themselves from abuse.
To save these children and many more in future, a variety of policy and programmatic actions are needed to reduce child marriage and its far-reaching adverse consequences. It is fundamental for families and societies at large to change their attitudes on early marriage
Please add your voice to the already growing amplified voices of Zimbabweans who wish to see a Zimbabwe free from Child Marriages and protective of its children
The URGENT!! Break the Silence Against Children Coerced Marriages In Zimbabwe petition to Zimbabwean Government, Zimbabwean Parliament, Civil Society groups and President was written by Eric Mpofu and is in the category Children's Rights at GoPetition.