Intervention by an alert community member of Mopane area in Chegutu East averted a minor’s forced marriage. The marriage could have seen a 13-year-old orphan handed over to a 65-year-old man (name with held). The girl lives with her aunt who is a member of the Johanne Marange Apostolic sect and the man behind the botched marriage is also a leading figure of the same church.
The aunt (name with held) who had received food hand-outs for years had promised the young-girl’s hand in marriage. The aunt and the minor were not available at the time of the visit as they were was said to be attending a church meeting at Bandawa in Mhondoro.
Neighbours confirmed that they had heard that the man was set to get a new wife anytime soon after the annual church meeting as his religion allowed that.
The neighbours said that it was difficult to know exactly when the marriage was to take place since the church members were secretive but it was imminent.
“The man’s third wife is very young, she could have been under-age when he married her eight or so years ago. Forced marriages of minors is rampant in their church. They marry under-age girls and we have heard that he intends to get a young orphan who lives with her aunt in return for the food hand outs he gave them over the years,” said the neighbours.
A visit to the man’s homestead found the man away on business at a nearby school where he is contracted as a builder. A young-looking daughter in-law with a toddler in tow said her in-laws had gone for healing prayers because the young twins were ill.
“My mothers are not around, I am the daughter-in-law, they have gone with the twins for prayers because the babies are not well. Father is at Mopane where he is building,” she said.
On visiting the man at the school he denied that he intended marrying an under-age girl. He said he had married three women, the first one in 1971, the third one sometime in 2004 or 2005 and did not remember when he married the second one. The man admitted that he has several children and could not tell off hand.
“I have married three women, the first one in 1971, the third one sometime in 2004 or 2005 thereby. I do not remember when I married the second one. My first wife died in 2001. My third wife currently has four children,” said the elderly man.
The man who appeared pensive wanted to know what was the legal age that would not get one arrested.
“What is the correct age that a girl can get married and not have one put behind bars, and has it always been a crime to marry minors?” the man asked.
On being informed that it was a criminal to marry a minor and that the legal age of majority was 18, he nodded as if in agreement.
“I see, thank you for the visit and alerting me, I have not married a fourth wife,” he added.
The Minister of Health and Child Care Dr David Parirenyatwa last week at a press conference said that sex education to children in schools was important and must be gradual.
“What we do with the Ministry of Education is that we advocate that there must be gradual sex education to children. . . Certainly as you know the age of majority is 18 years and the age of marriage is 16 years,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Paul Chimedza added that his ministry saw the need to conduct intensive awareness campaigns to stop traditional practices that result in sexual abuse of children.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care in conjunction with partners sees the need to conduct intensive awareness campaigns to stop traditional practices that result in sexual abuse of children,” said Dr Chimedza.
Section 26 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe expressly imposes a duty upon the State to ensure that children are not pledged into forced marriages.
The same constitution in Section 81 defines a child as anyone under the age of 18 years. The very same offence of pledging is also criminalised under Section 94 of Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act Chapter 9:23 and carries a fine or and a maximum incarceration period of two years.
A legal expert said that in the case where a child is forced into marriage the one who forces the child into the marriage is the one guilty of pledging the child, the man who has married her is the accomplice.
He further said that the man would however, be found guilty of rape of a minor too.