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The tragedy of child marriages

24 Aug, 2013 - 17:08 0 Views

The Herald

Cathrine Murombedzi HIV Walk
Loveness is expecting her third child. She recently turned 18 years. She attends one of the Apostolic sects which wears white lacy dresses and head- gear. “It was not my choice that I got married to a man who was a friend to my brother. He had a wife already and I would not have liked to be a second wife. My brother took over being the head of the house when our father died more than a decade ago. I was young then and I stopped attending school in Grade 3. My brother said that he was only able to give us food,” said Loveness.
She said her brother was self-employed.

“He makes dishes, pots and pans for sale. During the ecomomic meltdown, he got help from his friend who owned a kombi and promised him that he would hand me over once I became a woman.”

Her brother’s friend is also a member of the Apostolic sect.
Loveness gave birth to her first child at home with the assistance of birth attendants from her                                       church.

“I gave birth to my first child at home but I could have died. I was in labour for three days and I could hardly sit by the third day. Ambuya, who was assisting me to give birth, sought help from other birth attendants from our church and it was only on the third day that I gave birth.”

Loveness was told that her birth canal was narrow and the attendants had to pull the baby out.
She could not walk and had to be assisted even when bathing.

“I was ill for weeks and could hardly walk. I asked them to take me to the clinic but this all fell on deaf ears,” she said.
Loveness said that she had to lie on the timing of her second pregnancy’s due date.

“I had to lie that I was seven months into my pregnancy yet I knew that I was due. I therefore travelled to my sister’s place in Domboshava and promised to be back in a week.

“I knew that by the time I came back I would have given birth. I did not even take anything for the new baby in case they would be suspicious. So I had to use clothes and wrapping towels from my first child when I gave birth.”

Loveness’ older sister is also married to a member of the Apostolic sect but their church allows people to go to hospital.

“When I got to my sister’s home I told her that I had come to deliver in a clinic. My sister and her husband are into market gardening. She accompanied me to the clinic and paid the fees. She also bought me nappies since I had old ones which she said were not suitable for a new born baby.”

Loveness was grateful for the assistance she got from her elder sister.
“At the clinic, the nurses were helpful and I was counselled and then took an HIV test. I had always suspected that due to the nature of my marriage and with my husband not satisfied with two wives I would be HIV positive.

“The results confirmed my worst fears. It was better to know than die of ignorance. My sister was my pillar and assured me that we would receive the necessary help. I am glad I went through the prevention of mother to child transmission programme. My baby was born HIV-free.”

She was scared of giving birth at home again and she was glad that she had enrolled for PMTCT and will deliver at a clinic.
“At first my husband was cross that I had even gone to the clinic. He told me that I was a defiant wife who took tests without authorisation from him being the head of the family. My sister’s husband told him that he would report to the police if he stifled my effort to receive treatment,” she said.

“I am glad my husband finally agreed that I take my medication and also deliver at the clinic. In fact, I have saved him and his wife as they know their HIV status and have been commenced on ART too.”

In cases where child brides become mothers we have often heard people commenting: “Mwana ane mwana wake.” (A child has its own child).

In Zimbabwe child marriages under religious sects are often common and there have been deaths from pregnancy complications.
Complications from giving birth is the number one cause of death for girls aged 14 to 19.

Child birth kills more girls than war, tuberculosis or even HIV.
The reason that pregnancy and child birth kill so many girls is that their bodies are not ready for child birth.

In developing countries, a girl or woman is twice as likely to die in child birth if she’s age 15 to 19 than she is if she’s in her 20s. Girls under the age of 15 are five times as likely to die.

As seen in Loveness marriage, child brides are not equal partners in the unions. It’s like a master and servant relationship.
To say that Loveness even consented to sex in the union in the beginning would be lying, she was given off as a payment.

It was more of a transaction rather than proper marriage.
Unicef calls child marriage “the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls”.

As in Loveness’ case she has no power to negotiate for safe sex nor plan for child birth as she is not allowed to take contraception.
Worldwide 14 million girls become child brides and the number keeps going up. One in seven girls in developing nations is married off before turning 15.

As rightly stated: “Mwana ane mwana wake” is a reality which needs intervention as we can not fold our hands and have children made wives against their will.

To the men taking such young girls, be warned this is rape.

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