Freedom Mupanedemo Midlands Bureau
KWEKWE residents yesterday expressed mixed feelings over the new Marriages Bill, with some arguing it is attempting to turn a marriage into some form of a contract instead of it being a union of love.
Residents, most of them women, who thronged Mbizo Hall where the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs was conducting a public hearing said the proposed law was trying to smuggle in foreign cultures at the expense of local tradition as well as promoting child marriages.
“From my interpretation of this proposed marriage bill, as a nation we are trying to diverge from a concept of marriage where by two people stay together as husband and wife to a scenario where it’s more of a contract.
“We are Zimbabweans we are Africans we have our own culture we should be cognisant of our culture. Marriage is not a contract where people are given a certain period to go and register these contracts,” said one Ms Melody Chagwiza who was referring to a clause which calls for all marriages to be registered within a prescribed period.
Ms Mercy Jaravani, a policy and advocacy officer with Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, also concurred and said the new bill was trying to disadvantage women in patriarchal marriages by making it mandatory to have all marriages registered.
She said many women in rural areas and those who for long have been in patriarchal marriages were likely to lose out under the proposed law. “The disadvantage of this bill is that most women are in customary marriages and what it means is that if the bill says all marriages should be registered within a certain period, it puts many into a disadvantage because some don’t believe in registering marriages under whatever chapter.
“If a woman for instance, suggest a wedding whether its chapter 508 0r 511, some patriarchal men would think she is up to something bad and this will be unfair to the women,” she said.
Ms Jaravani, said section 40 of the new marriage bill which protected “small houses” should be brought back as it was essential in protecting those in unregistered marriages.
“Most people including you the media interpreted this section wrongly resulting in it being struck off. But we are saying this section was intended at trying to protect those in unregistered marriages and not necessarily small houses. “We must understand that most of those who are in unregistered marriages are there not out of choice. Some men are not willing to register,” she said.
Others, however, said the clause should not be brought back as it meant equal sharing of property by all wives. “As the first wife who worked hard for my family to own some of the property, I can’t be seen sharing the same property with the second wife, a ‘jonnie come late’, it’s unfair,” argued Mrs Vimbai Jani.
The stake holders said the new bill should also revise the age of consent to 20 years rather than reducing it to 16. “By reducing the age of consent to 16 years, we are promoting child marriages because here in Kwekwe we already have that problem where very young kids some as young as 11 years enter into marries especially with these apostolic sect members,” said Mrs Vimbai Ncube.
Chairperson of the Committee, Cecil Kashiri who is also Member of Parliament for Magunje said there was a low turn up in Kwekwe due to the delays in relaying the message.