Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution prohibits boys and girls below the age of 18 from marriage.
However, since 2013, the country’s marriage laws did not abide by that, resulting in Zimbabwe having no legislation that explicitly outlaws child marriages.
This gap automatically translated to the widespread conduct of child marriages, also catalyzed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), 33,7% of girls under 18 were married, and 2% of boys became household leaders before the age of 18.
As the country continues to celebrate women’s month, Zimbabwe recently signed into law the Marriages Act.
The Act is widely celebrated by Children’s Rights groups as a win, after years of advocacy in trying to curb the prevalence of child marriages considering Zimbabwe is amongst the top 20 countries with high rates of child marriages in Africa.
According to Shamwari yeMwanasikana, “Clause 3 of the newly passed into law Marriage Bill provides that the minimum age of entering into any form of marriage is 18. This gives girls security and trust in our laws in knowing that they will no longer fall victim to child marriages as the law now fully protects them from child marriages.
“As we welcome the passing of the Bill into law, we are calling for the implementation of the Marriage Bill. Our laws are good on paper however we continue to have issues as far as the implementation is concerned.”
In a plausible move, the central government also took another step to protect children through the proposition of the Guardianship of Minors Amendment Bill, which has already passed through Parliament and Senate.
The Bill seeks to remove a clause that empowers parents to give their consent to the marriage of their children aged under 18. Now that such marriages are banned a parent can’t consent to such a union.
Of interest from the issues raised here is the implementation part. There are a lot of other good laws and documents in Zimbabwe but have utterly failed because they lack proper implementation strategy and plan.
The government must now make sure justice is delivered accordingly, decentralize courts and put strong enforcement measures for the law to serve the people effectively.