By Mlondolozi Ndlovu
Residents in Harare have pleaded with the government to expeditiously complete the realignment of the country’s laws with the new constitution in order to avoid discord that exists between the previous laws and the current constitution.
This was said at a Zimbabwe Human Rights commission dialogue to contribute on the need to end child marriages.
Residents said the old provisions in the previous law which started the age of 16 as the legal age of consent confused them on who exactly is referred to as a child, as the Commission started that the new law says 18 is the age of consent.
Members of the police force were also blamed for lacking understanding on the issues in the new constitution with residents saying they must be educated on the constitution, for them to effectively enforce the laws of the country.
Speaking from Epworth, the residents expressed concern over the ignorance exhibited by members of the police force on the country’s new constitution.
‘Police are not aware of the new constitution. For instance at some point they told girls aged between 13 and 16 to go back to their husbands’
‘I think they must be educated on the new provisions in our laws and avoid confusing us. It’s sad that most children have nowhere to report since they are told by the police to return to their husbands at such a tender age’ said a resident who preferred anonymity.
Residents also complained about corrupt police officers that accept bribes from people who marry young children with calls from both the Ministry of Women and residents to criminalize child marriages as rape.
Some of the residents blamed politicians for the early marriages that are rife in Epworth saying it was during elections that politicians impregnated young girls at the so called ‘bases’ during election campaigns.
‘I think there is need for the commission to look into cases of sexual torture by political events during the elections. People hide behind ZANU PF raping children and after the elections in Epworth most children will be pregnant,’ said another man only identified as Dube.
However, the Chairperson of the Epworth Local Council Mr Tafirei Murambidzi was quick to squash these claims saying the residents were politicizing the issue and that some of the parents were responsible for these issues.
‘Let us not involve politics into these issues. The problem starts with parents who send children for work at a tender age and some who send children for shopping at night,’ he said.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education who were also present at this event bemoaned the sprouting of unregistered schools as one of the reasons for early child marriages, since most of the teachers in these schools are unqualified and hence unethical.
The event was attended by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Chairperson Mr Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi, Deputy Chairperson DR Ellen Sithole, 2 members of the Commission, Ministry representatives, Epworth councilors, Msasa Project and Rev Johhanes Ndanga of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe and the residents of Epworth.