Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
Female legislators have expressed concern over delays in the promulgation of laws that protect minors from being forced into early marriages. They said this at a meeting organised by Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) and the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF). The parliamentarians said there was need to align marriage laws with the new Constitution.

The legislators said there were inconsistencies between the law and the Constitution, with the criminal code setting the age of consent at 16, while the supreme law prohibits people below 18 from entering into marriage.

Chairperson of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa called for the realignment of the law with the Constitution.

“As legislators, it was our responsibility to engage the Government and push them to bring amendments that will align the criminal code with the constitution,” she said.

“We should also engage the society, especially traditional and church leaders so that they can assist us in teaching communities on the dangers of early and child marriages.”

Mashonaland Central Proportional Representative member Cde Dorothy Kadungure echoed similar sentiments.

“A girl who is 17 can lawfully have sexual intercourse since she is above the current age of consent which is 16, but what if she gets pregnant, it means the next thing she elopes or gets married and our Constitution on the other hand states that any child below 18 cannot marry,” she said.

Mashonaland West Representative Ms Consilia Chinanzvavana said the law made it difficult to suppress child marriages.

“So, these grey areas should be corrected without delay to avoid child marriages,” she said.

“Can a person whom the law regards as a child consent to sex?

“Surely, if this is not corrected, it would be difficult to control cases of child marriages.”

Ms Mildred Mubaiwa, a lawyer from ZWLA, said child marriages had a negative impact on women development.

“We have national, regional and international laws advocating for equality and women participation in politics, on boards and in different professions, but as long as the practice of child marriage has not been effectively done away with, it is one of the main hindrance to women participation in the public sphere,” she said.

“It is going to be difficult to have women in equal numbers to men meaningfully participating in the public sphere.

“There is inadequate implementation of the constitutional provisions that protects girls from child marriages.

“Since 2013, there hasn’t been alignment as yet of marriage laws and the criminal code.”

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