20 underage girls forced into marriage
“We have several of these cases in this community and something must be done to curb this problem, which has gone unreported. There are over 20 minors that have been married off,” Mr Madzongo said.
“Maybe it’s ignorance because these people are used to that life on the farms. Most of these girls have dropped out of school at Grade Five and are now mothers.”
Branch chairman Cde Andrea Goliath echoed the same sentiments.
“These parents don’t have money to send their children to school so what do you expect? Children have nothing to do and end up engaging in sexual activities,” Cde Goliath said.
“Some parents say if we report this to police then it’s us again who will be going to prison to visit those that would have been arrested,” he said.
When The Herald visited the settlement, some of the victims expressed willingness to go back to school.
“I got married because my parents are divorced and they cannot look after me. If I am given a chance to go to school, I would love to study and pass so that I can have a better life,” one of the victims who is now aged 17 said.
The father of a girl who married at 14 said his daughter eloped, but he contemplated taking legal action.
“She was still a minor when she was married. The family of the boy promised that she would only start being intimate with her husband after she turned 18 and begged me not report the case to police,” he said.
The grandmother of a girl who was impregnated and got married at 13 said men who impregnate underage girls should be arrested.
“These men just give these girls children but they don’t look after them. The responsible authorities should arrest them and lock them,” said Ambuya Rosemary Sandaramu.
Another parent said some parents in the settlement were marrying off their daughters for money.
“We have an old man (name withheld) who recently married off his two daughters aged 13 and 14. When we confronted him, he told us to leave him alone,” he said.
He added that his son had also married an underage girl.
Harare lawyer Advocate Tonderai Bhatasara yesterday said the law was clear that it was illegal and criminal for minors to be married below the age of consent.
“In terms of the Child Protection and Adoption Act Section 7 and 8 under ill-treatment and exploitation of children and young persons, it is an offence on the part of the parents. The Act criminalises such kind of activities as they expose minors to immoral things that are detrimental to their development,” Adv Bhatasara said.
He said under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, it was a criminal offence to engage in sexual intercourse with minors.
“Under section 7 of the Act . . . since it involves sexual activity it becomes rape. The Act makes it an offence to have sexual intercourse with a minor,” he said.
Adv Bhatasara said such cases usually go unreported as there were no complainants.
“But, anyone can file a complaint and the courts can intervene. Parents of the minors involved become accomplices,” he said, calling on responsible authorities to invoke the laws and bring the culprits to book.
Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association director Mrs Emilia Muchawa also said authorities should intervene urgently.
“Its unlawful to marry a minor or allow a minor to be married off. Children should be given their time to fully develop. But if they are to be married this restricts them from fully developing and realising their fully potential in life,” she said.
Mrs Muchawa said marrying minors also exposed them to various diseases.
Although there is a primary and a secondary school in the settlement most children had dropped out because their parents have no money.
Many marriages are related to poverty, with parents needing the bride price of a daughter to feed, clothe, educate, and house the rest of the family.
Various UN-commissioned reports indicate that in many Sub-Saharan countries, there is a high incidence of marriage among girls younger than 15.
Many Governments have tended to overlook the particular problems resulting from child marriage, including obstetric fistulae, premature births, stillbirth and sexually transmitted diseases