Child marriages rife in Mash Central: Report
Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
Some Government officials including Members of Parliament are sexual predators targeting minors but continue to walk scot-free, a parliamentary committee has revealed.
The revelations are contained in a report compiled by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development following public hearings with various stakeholders on the prevalence of child marriages in Mashonaland Central Province re- cently.
Presenting the first report of the findings in the National Assembly yesterday, committee chairperson Cde Beatrice Nyamupinga said submissions from all the districts that the committee visited in the province confirmed a high prevalence of child mar- riages.
“In Centenary, the committee was informed that there was a high pupil dropout rate and rampant child marriages involving girls doing Grade Six and Seven, especially in Lower Muzarabani,” said Cde Nyamupinga.
“A primary (school) teacher reported to the committee during public hearing that on average 30 pupils are dropping out of school due to child marriages an- nually.
“A church pastor, during a public hearing, informed the committee that a 15-year-old girl had been sexually abused and forced into marriage, had contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affected her health until she became mentally disturbed. Rehabilitation of the girl was said to be difficult since parents and close relatives were said to be unco-operative.
“In Dotito, it was reported to the committee that a Grade Six pupil had been married re- cently.”
Cde Nyamupinga said in Rushinga, CAMFED, a civil society organisation that pays fees for underprivileged school-going girls, revealed that female pupils continued to drop out of school due to early mar- riages.
“In Shamva, the committee was informed of an underage girl who was made pregnant by a Government official and the perpetrator was not arrested,” said Cde Nyamupinga.
She said some of the major factors and conditions promoting child marriages were poverty, lack of alignment of marriage laws with the new Constitution, lenient sentences given to cases regarding statutory rape or consensual sex with a minor, practices of child marriages by some churches particularly the Johanne Marange Apostolic Sect as well as low levels of education, among others.
On its observations and findings, the committee found out that youths and school-going children were exposed to illicit drugs among them marijuana and cough syrup Broncleer commonly referred to as “Broncho”.
“The committee also found that communities in Mashonaland Central were concerned about incidences of sex with minors involving public officials or figures such as police officers, Members of Parliament and or teachers.
“In most, if not all cases, child brides are disempowered, dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety.
“Neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, child mothers are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications in pregnancy and child birth, becoming infected with HIV/Aids and suffering domestic violence,” said Cde Nyamupinga.
All the other legislators who debated the motion condemned child marriages but some of them said parents, guardians and teachers were helpless as they could not discipline errant pupils for fear of being found on the wrong side of the law.
MDC-T MP for Binga South Mr Joel Gabbuza said 16 female pupils aged between 14-18 years from one school in his constituency had dropped out of school at the same time to get mar- ried.