Nesia Mhaka recently in Mbire
People in Mashonaland Central Province have expressed concern over child marriages which are rife in the province, especially in Mbire District.
This came out during a public hearing conducted by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education on the Marriages Bill, which seeks to harmonise customary and statutory marriages, as well as criminalise child marriages.
This comes after the Cabinet recently approved the same section which outlaws child marriages, arguing that it was not consistent with Zimbabwe’s cultural norms and values.
The contentious Section 3 (2) of the proposed Marriages Bill reads: “any person other than a child concerned, who contravenes subsection (2) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 10 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years and such imprisonment.”
The portfolio committee’s chairperson Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said early child marriages had become a cause for concern in most rural and marginalised communities in Zimbabwe. She said through interaction with the community, the committee noted that early marriages in Mashonaland Central were being fuelled by poverty, beliefs, impunity, tradition, teenage delinquency and poor access to education.
“Although the reasons vary with each region, culture and community, the motivation of early child marriages in Mbire is driven by poverty,” said Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
“Most impoverished families are marrying off young girls to get rid of an extra mouth to feed at an early age.
“Poor access to education is also believed to be one of the major reasons fuelling early child marriages despite numerous efforts by Government to stamp out the practice through the introduction of legislation that protects the girl child from all forms of abuse.”
Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the committee discovered that the majority of girls were dropping out of school in order to get married.
“On the other hand, we also have parents who are marrying off school-going age girls due to poverty,” she said.
“They argue that they are forced to marry them off after failing to raise school fees owing to poor harvests and other economic problems.”